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Translated from the third edition (1744) by 


Cornell University Press 


Copyright 1948 by Cornell University 

Cornell University Press 

London: Geoffrey Cumberlege 

Oxford University Press 




THE FOLLOWING translation of Vico's Scienza nuova, begun in 1939 at Naples 
and on Capri but interrupted by the war, is based on the text edited by Fausto 
Nicolini which forms volume 112 and the first 166 pages of volume 113 in the 
Scrittori d'ltalia (Bari, Laterza, 1928). 

That text was based on a word-for-word collation of Nicolini's earlier edition 
of 191 1-16 with the edition of 1744 and with the manuscript in Vico's hand from 
which the latter was printed. Vico's intolerably long paragraphs and sentences 
were broken up and the punctuation was otherwise modernized. His countless 
parenthetical phrases and clauses were enclosed in curved lines to clarify the 
syntax. The paragraphs were numbered, and the index references were to 
paragraphs rather than pages. 

We have retained Nicolini's paragraphing, and our index, like his, refers to 
the paragraphs by number; but we have carried the breaking up of sentences 
much further. With occasional exceptions, we have followed Nicolini's use of 
parenthesis marks, but the reader should perhaps be warned that they are no 
part of Vico's own punctuation. 

Our thanks are due to William Cherubini for placing at our disposal his trans- 
lation of paragraphs 365-445, to James Hutton for his careful and helpful 
scrutiny of our entire translation in the typescript, to Ruth B. Fisch for pre- 
paring the index, and to the University of Chicago Library for supplying a 
photograph of the plate facing page 3 from its copy of the edition of 1744. 

For a discussion of the development of the New Science, of its background 
in European thought, and of its subsequent influence, we may refer the reader 
to the introduction to our translation of Vico's Autobiography (Cornell Uni- 
versity Press, Ithaca, 1944). It was our intention, as we stated in the preface to 
that volume, that that somewhat lengthy introduction should serve for our 
translation of the New Science as well. 1 

Two indispensable aids to the scholarly study of Vico have appeared or been 
announced since the present translation was completed. Croce's Bibliografia 
vichiana has been enlarged and rewritten by Nicolini (Naples, Ricciardi, 2 

1 The essay promised in note 147 of our translation of the Autobiography is appearing 
under the title "The Academy of the Investigators'* in a volume of essays in honor of the 
English historian of science, Charles Singer. 


vols., 1947-48), and Nicolini has in press a definitive commentary on the 
Scienza nuova (Bari, Laterza, 2 vols., 1948). 

Vico's argument touches so many fields which have been assiduously culti- 
vated since his day (the Homeric question and the general field of folklore for 
examples) that it is difficult to resist the temptation to annotate the New Science 
in the light of subsequent investigations. But Nicolini's commentary will take 
care of the needs of scholars in this and other respects, and a commentary would 
be only a distraction to most of the readers we hope our translation will have. 
We have therefore chosen to publish it without notes. 

A general caveat, however, should perhaps be entered here. The New Science 
abounds in confusions, misquotations and misinterpretations of Vico's sources, 
arising in part from taking them at second hand, in larger part from unconscious 
reading of his own views into them, and in still larger part from simply mis- 
remembering them. A few of the resulting errors have been indicated in the 
index and by bracketed insertions in the text. For examples, Vico remembers 
Arion as Amphion, makes a proper noun out of an adjective in Homer (see 
index s.v. Eureia), adds Pacca to the name of the troubadour poet Arnaut 
Daniel, confuses Kronos and chronos, attributes to Thucydides what was said 
by Isocrates, and alters beyond recognition the meaning of a passage in Seneca 
(at the end of paragraph 1096). A complete exposure of Vico's errors in this 
kind would require the elaborate commentary which we have foregone, and 
yet would not touch the heart of his argument. 2 Our general caveat seems there- 
fore sufficient. 

Readers new to Vico may find it advantageous on their first reading of 
the New Science to pass over the "Idea of the Work" and the "Notes on the 
Chronological Table" and begin with the "Elements" (Book I, Section II). 

To smooth the way of readers with little Latin and less Greek, we have 
transliterated the Greek words and phrases in Vico's text, and have usually 
inserted translations of these and of his Latin words, phrases and quotations. 
For the literary works he cites, we have often used familiar English titles in 
the case of Greek and Latin classics; but in the case of modern works we have 
usually given the title in the language of original publication (Latin for the 
most part), even when Vico gives an Italian translation or paraphrase. Minor 
errors in the citations have been silently corrected. 

At the expense of occasional awkwardness, we have tried to respect Vice's 
technical terms. Certo and its cognates, for example, arc with rare exceptions 
translated "certain" etc., even when it is not clear that Vico is using them in the 
technical sense explained in paragraph 321. Umano and its cognates, which we 
were often tempted to render "humane" or "civilized," are usually allowed to 
stand as "human" etc., in order to preserve a possible reference either (a) to the 

2 In addition to Nicolini's forthcoming commentary, the curious reader may consult his 
Fonti e rifcrimcnti storici dell a scconda Scienza Nuova (Bari, Laterza, 1931)1 and the 
notes to his 1911-^6 edition. 


age of men as distinguished from the age of gods and the age of heroes, or (b) 
to the ages of heroes and men together as distinguished from the age of gods, 
as in paragraph 629. An ctcrna propictd remains an "eternal property" even 
when we are tempted to employ the more secular language of uniformities and 
correlations. Principio we have sometimes rendered "principle," sometimes "be- 
ginning." As a technical term with Vico, it means both in one, and it may 
fairly be said that the ambivalence of this term is one of the keys to Vico's 
thought. The term principc, "prince," has the same ambivalence, and so does 
natura, "nature" or "birth." Dominio (Latin dominlum) we have usually trans- 
lated "ownership," but sometimes "dominion" or (in the phrase dominio 
eminente) "domain." Rcpubblica is uniformly rendered "commonwealth" to 
avoid the misleading associations of "republic" in English. A few terms for 
which there are no exact English equivalents are represented by the correspond- 
ing Latin terms, as likely to be less unfamiliar: connubio by connubium, famoli 
by famuli, suitd by sui heredcs etc. Diritto naturalc delle genti we have usually 
rendered "the natural law of nations" since "law of nations" is the common 
English equivalent for ius gentium? 

In general, apart from the breaking up of sentences and an occasional lapse 
from Italian superlatives into English positives, or from literal translation into 
paraphrase for clarity's sake, we have aimed at as close an approximation to 
Vico's style as English will permit. A recent critic * has argued that Vico is more 
poet than philosopher, and that his style is essential to the full communication 
of his meaning. Perhaps it would not overstrain the point to say that he is even 
more prophet than poet, and that his language, with all its obscurity, incoherence 
and magnificence, is the language of one who beholds a vision. Indeed the fre- 
quent "as we have already seen" and "as we shall soon see" betray the essential 
characteristic of the seer. The vision is forever with him in all its dazzling totality; 
it is a scintillant whole though with many facets, and Vico even while enraptured 
by one aspect of his revelation is never unaware of the others. His references 
forwards and backwards connect primarily the parts of the vision, and only 
secondarily and imperfectly the parts of the book. 5 Not to attempt to convey 
something of this divine or at least heroic intoxication would be to fail to 
translate Vico in any real sense of the word. 

T. G. B. 
M. H. F. 
Ithaca and Urbana, April 1948 

8 For the meaning of this portmanteau phrase see paragraph 998 below and page 48 of 
the introduction to our translation of Vico's Autobiography. 

4 Mario Fubini, Stile e umanttb dt Giambattista Vico, Bari, Laterza, 1946. 

8 We have inserted paragraph numbers in brackets for all backward references to the 
Axioms, and for a very few other backward and forward references. 



Frontispiece facing page 3 
Explanation of the Picture Placed as Frontispiece to Serve as Introduction 

to the Work 3 


Chronological Table facing page 27 
Section I. Notes on the Chronological Table, in Which the Materials 

Are Set in Order 27 

Section II. Elements 54 

Section III. Principles 85 

Section IV. Method 89 


Prolegomena 97 
Introduction 97 
Chapter I. Wisdom in General 98 
Chapter II. Exposition and Division of Poetic Wisdom 100 
Chapter III. The Universal Flood and the Giants 100 
Section I. Poetic Metaphysics 104 
Chapter I. Poetic Metaphysics as the Origin of Poetry, Idolatry, Divina- 
tion and Sacrifices 104 
Chapter II. Corollaries concerning the Principal Aspects of This Science 108 
Section II. Poetic Logic 114 
Chapter I. Poetic Logic 114 
Chapter II. Corollaries concerning Poetic Tropes, Monsters and Meta- 
morphoses 116 
Chapter III. Corollaries concerning Speech by Poetic Characters among 
the First Nations 119 


Chapter IV. Corollaries concerning the Origins of Languages and Let- 
ters; and, Therein, the Origins of Hieroglyphics, Laws, Names, 
Family Arms, Medals and Money; and Hence of the First Lan- 
guage and Literature of the Natural Law of Nations 124 

Chapter V. Corollaries concerning the Origins of Poetic Style, Episode, 
Inversion, Rhythm, Song and Verse 138 

Chapter VI. The Other Corollaries Announced at the Beginning [of 
Chapter IV] 143 

Chapter VII. Final Corollaries concerning the Logic of the Learned 149 
Section III. Poetic Morals 152 

Chapter I. Poetic Morals and the Origins of the Vulgar Virtues Taught 

by Religion through the Institution of Matrimony 152 

Section IV. Poetic Economy 160 

Chapter I. Of Poetic Economy, and Here of the Families Which at 
first Included Only Children [and not Famuli} 160 

Chapter II. The Families with Their Famuli, Which Preceded the 
Cities, and without Which the Cities Could Not Have Been Born 175 

Chapter III. Corollaries concerning Contracts Sealed by Simple Con- 
sent 183 

Chapter IV. Mythological Canon 185 

Section V. Poetic Politics 187 

Chapter I. Poetic Politics, under Which the First Commonwealths in 
the World Were Born in a Most Severely Aristocratic Form 187 

Chapter II. All Commonwealths Are Born from Certain Eternal Prin- 
ciples of Fiefs 196 

Chapter III. The Origins of the Census and the Treasury 205 

Chapter IV. The Origins of the Roman Assemblies 207 

Chapter V. Corollary: Divine Providence Is the Ordainer of Common- 
wealths and at the Same Time of the Natural Law of Nations 209 

Chapter VI. Heroic Politics 212 

Chapter VII. Corollaries concerning Roman Antiquities, and in Par- 
ticular the Supposedly Monarchic Kingship at Rome and the Sup- 
posedly Popular Liberty Ordained by Junius Brutus 222 

Chapter VIII. Corollary concerning the Heroism of the First Peoples 224 
Section VI 229 

Chapter I. Epitomes of Poetic History 229 

Section VII. Poetic Physics 232 

Chapter I. Poetic Physics 232 

Chapter II. P0etic Physics concerning Man, or Heroic Nature 234 


Chapter III, Corollary on Heroic Sentences 237 

Chapter IV. Corollary on Heroic Descriptions 238 

Chapter V. Corollary on Heroic Customs 239 

Section VIII 240 

Chapter I. Poetic Cosmography 240 

Section IX. Poetic Astronomy 246 

Chapter I. Poetic Astronomy 246 

Chapter II. Astronomical and Physico-philological Demonstration of 
the Uniformity of the Principles [of Astronomy] among All An- 
cient Gentile Nations 246 
Section X. Poetic Chronology 249 
Chapter I. Poetic Chronology 249 
Chapter II. Chronological Canon for Determining the Beginnings of 
Universal History, Which Must Precede the Monarchy of Ninus, 
with Which It [Commonly] Starts 251 
Section XL Poetic Geography 254 
Chapter I. Poetic Geography 254 
Chapter II. Corollary on the Coming of Aeneas into Italy 260 
Chapter III. The Denomination and Description of the Heroic Cities 262 
Conclusion 265 

Section I. Search for the True Homer 269 

Introduction 269 

Chapter I. The Esoteric Wisdom Attributed to Homer 269 

Chapter II. Homer's Fatherland 272 

Chapter III. The Age of Homer 273 

Chapter IV. Homer's Matchless Faculty for Heroic Poetry 276 

Chapter V. Philosophical Proofs for the Discovery of the True Homer 278 
Chapter VI. Philological Proofs for the Discovery of the True Homer 283 
Section II. Discovery of the True Homer 289 

Introduction 289 

Chapter I. The Improprieties and Improbabilities of the Homer Hith- 
erto Believed in Become Proper and Necessary in the Homer 
Herein Discovered 289 

Chapter II. The Poems of Homer Revealed as Two Great Treasure 
Stores of the Natural Law of the Nations of Greece 293 

Appendix. Rational History of the Dramatic and Lyric Poets 395 



Introduction 301 

Section I. Three Kinds of Natures 302 

Section II. Three Kinds of Customs 303 

Section HI, Three Kinds of Natural Law 304 

Section IV. Three Kinds of Governments 305 

Section V. Three Kinds of Languages 306 

Section VI. Three Kinds of Characters 307 

Section VIL Three Kinds of Jurisprudence 309 

Section VIII. Three Kinds of Authority 311 

Section IX. Three Kinds of Reason 313 

Chapter I. Divine Reason and Reason of State 313 

Chapter II. Corollary on the Political Wisdom of the Ancient Romans 314 

Chapter HI. Corollary: Fundamental History of Roman Law 315 

Section X. Three Kinds of Judgments 317 

Chapter I. First Kind: Divine Judgments 317 

Chapter II. Corollary on Duels and Reprisals 319 

Chapter III. Second Kind: Ordinary Judgments 321 

Chapter IV. Third Kind: Human Judgments 324 

Section XL Three Sects of Times 325 

Chapter I. Sects of Religious, Punctilious and Civil Times 325 

Section XII. Other Proofs Drawn from the Properties of the Heroic 

Aristocracies 327 

Introduction 327 

Chapter I. The Safeguarding of the Frontiers 327 

Chapter II. The Safeguarding of the Orders 329 

Chapter III, The Safeguarding of the Laws 335 

Section XIII 338 

Chapter I. Other Proofs Taken from [Mixed Commonwealths, that 
is from] the Tempering of the State of a Succeeding Common- 
wealth by the Government of the Preceding One 338 

Chapter II. An Eternal Natural Royal Law by Which the Nations 

Come to Rest under Monarchies 340 

Chapter III. Refutation of the Principles of Political Theory as Rep- 
resented by the System of Jean Bodin 341 
Section XIV. Final Proofs to Confirm the Course of Nations 345 

Chapter I. Punishments, Wars, Order of Numbers 345 


Chapter II. Corollary: That the Ancient Roman Law Was a Serious 
Poem, and the Ancient Jurisprudence a Severe Kind of Poetry, 
within Which Are Found the First Outlines of Legal Metaphysics 
in the Rough; and How, among the Greeks, Philosophy Was Born 
of the Laws 347 


Introduction 357 

Chapter I. The Latest Barbaric History Illuminated by the Recurrence of 
the First Barbaric History 357 

Chapter II. Recurrence of the Nations in Conformity with the Eternal 
Nature of Fiefs, and Recurrence of Ancient Roman Law in Feudal Law 360 

Chapter HI. The Ancient and Modern World of Nations Described in 
Conformity with the Plan of the Principles of This [New] Science 370 


On an Eternal Natural Commonwealth, in Each Kind Best, Ordained 
by Divine Providence 377 

Index of Names 385 





1 AS CEDES the Theban made a table of things moral, we here offer one 
of things civil. We hope it may serve to give the reader some conception of this 
work before he reads it, and, with such aid as imagination may afford, to call 
it back to mind after he has read it, 

2 The lady with the winged temples who surmounts the celestial globe 
or world of nature is metaphysic, for the name means as much. The luminous 
triangle with the seeing eye is God with the aspect of His providence. Through 
this aspect metaphysic in the attitude of ecstasy contemplates Him above the 
order of natural things through which hitherto the philosophers have contem- 
plated Him. For in the present work, ascending higher, she contemplates in 
God the world of human minds, which is the metaphysical world, in order to 
show His providence in the world of human spirits, which is the civil world or 
world of nations. The latter has as the elements of which it is formed all the 
things represented by the hieroglyphs displayed in the lower half of the picture. 
The globe, or the physical, natural world, is supported by the altar in one part 
only, for, until now, the philosophers, contemplating divine providence only 
through the natural order, have shown only a part of it. Accordingly rnen offer 
worship, sacrifices and other divine honors to God as to the Mind which is 
the free and absolute sovereign of nature, because by His eternal counsel He 
has given us existence through nature, and through nature preserves it to us. 
But the philosophers have not yet contemplated His providence in respect of 
that part of it which is most proper to men, whose nature has this principal 
property: that of being social. In providing for this property God has so or- 
dained and disposed human affairs that men, having fallen from complete 
justice by original sin, and while intending almost always to do something quite 
different and often quite the contrary so that for private utility they would live 
alone like wild beasts have been led by this same utility and along the afore- 
said different and contrary paths to live like men in justice and to keep them- 
selves in society and thus to observe their social nature. It will be shown in the 


present work that this is the true civil nature of man, and thus that law exists 
in nature. The conduct of divine providence in this matter is one of the things 
whose rationale is a chief business of our Science, which becomes in this re- 
spect a rational civil theology of divine providence. 

3 In the belt of the zodiac which girds the celestial globe the two signs 
of Leo and Virgo, more than the others, appear in majesty, or, as is said, in per- 
spective. The former signifies that our Science in its beginnings contemplates first 
the Hercules that every ancient gentile nation boasts as its founder, and that it 
contemplates him in his greatest labor. This was the slaying of the lion which, 
vomiting flame, set fire to the Nemean forest, and adorned with whose skin 
Hercules was raised to the stars. The lion is here found to have been the great 
ancient forest of the earth, burned down and brought under cultivation by 
Hercules, whom we find to have been the type of the political heroes who had 
to precede the military heroes. This sign also represents the beginning of 
time [-reckoning ]s, which among the Greeks (to whom we owe all our knowl- 
edge of gentile antiquity) began with the Olympiads, based on the games of 
which we are told that Hercules was the founder. They must have begun among 
the Nemeans to celebrate his victory over the lion he slew. Thus the 
time [ -reckoning ]s of the Greeks began when cultivation of the fields began 
among them. The second sign, that of the Virgin, whom the astronomers found 
described by the poets as crowned with ears of grain, signifies that Greek his- 
tory began with the golden age. The poets expressly relate that this was the 
first age of their world, when through the long course of centuries the years 
were counted by the grain harvests, which we find to have been the first gold 
of the world. This golden age of the Greeks has its Latin counterpart in the 
age of Saturn, who gets his name from sati, "sown" [fields]. In this age of 
gold, the poets assure us faithfully, the gods consorted on earth with the heroes. 
For we shall show later that the first men among the gentiles, simple and crude, 
and under the powerful spell of most vigorous imaginations encumbered with 
frightful superstitions, actually believed that they saw the gods on earth. We 
shall see further that by uniformity of ideas the orientals, Egyptians, Greeks and 
Latins, each in ignorance of the others, afterwards raised the gods to the planets 
and the heroes to the fixed stars. Thus from Saturn (whose Greek name Chronos 
means "time") new principles are derived for chronology or the theory of time. 

4 You must not think it improper that the altar is under and supports 
the globe. For it will be found that the world's first altars were raised by the 
gentiles in the first heaven of the poets, who in their fables faithfully passed on 
to us the story that Heaven had reigned on earth over men and had left great 
blessings to mankind. These first men, children as it were of the growing hu- 
man race, believed that the sky was no higher than the summits of the moun- 
tains, as even now children believe it to be little higher than the roofs of their 
houses. Then as the Greek intelligence developed heaven was raised to the 
summits of the highest mountains, such as Olympus, where Homer relates that 


the gods of his day had their dwelling. Finally it was raised above the spheres, 
as we are now taught by astro ^my, and Olympus was raised above the heaven 
of the fixed stars. Thither lik wdse was transported the altar, which is now a 
celestial sign, and the fire upo.i it passed into the neighboring house (as you 
see here) of the Lion. (This, as we have just observed, was the Nemean forest, 
to which Hercules set fire to bring it under cultivation.) For the lion's skin was 
raised to the stars in token of the triumph of Hercules. 

5 The ray of the divine providence illuminating a convex jewel which 
adorns the breast of metaphysic denotes the clean and pure heart .vhich meta- 
physic must have, not dirty or befouled with pride of spirit or vileness of bodily 
pleasures, by the first of which Zeno was led to put fate, and by the second 
Epicurus to put chance, in the place of divine providence. Furthermore it in- 
dicates that the knowledge of God does not have its end in ir etaphysic taking 
private illumination from intellectual things and thence regulating merely her 
own moral conduct, as hitherto the philosophers have done. For this would have 
been signified by a flat jewel, whereas the jewel is convex, thus reflecting and 
scattering the ray abroad, to show that metaphysic should know God's provi- 
dence in public morals or civil customs, by which the nations have come into 
being and maintain themselves in the world. 

6 The same ray is reflected from the breast of metaphysic onto the statue 
of Homer, the first gentile author who has come down to us. For metaphysic, 
directing a history of human ideas from the beginnings of truly human think- 
ing among the gentiles, has enabled us finally to descend into the crude minds of 
the first founders of the gentile nations, all robust sense and vast imagination. 
They had only the bare potentiality, and that torpid and stupid, of using the 
human mind and reason. For that very reason the beginnings of poetry, not 
only different from but contrary to those which have been hitherto imagined, are 
found to lie in the beginnings of poetic wisdom, which have for that same 
reason been hitherto hidden from us. This poetic wisdom, the knowledge of 
the theological poets, was unquestionably the first wisdom of the world for the 
gentiles. The statue of Homer on a cracked base signifies the discovery of the 
true Homer. (In the first edition of the New Science we sensed it but did not 
understand it. In the present edition it is fully set forth after due consideration.) 
Unknown until now, he has held hidden from us the true facts of the fabulous 
period among the nations, and much more so those of the obscure period which 
all had despaired of knowing, and consequently the first true origins of the 
things of the historic period. These are the three periods of the world which 
Marcus Terentius Varro, the most learned writer on Roman antiquities, re- 
corded for us in his great work entitled [Antiquitates] rerum divinarum et 
humanarum, which has been lost. 

7 Moreover, it may here be pointed out that in the present work, with a 
new critical art that has hitherto been lacking, entering on the research of the 
truth concerning the authors of these same [gentile] nations (among which 


more than a thousand years had to pass in order to bring forth the writers with 
whom criticism has hitherto been concerned), philosophy undertakes to ex- 
amine philology (that is, the doctrine of everything that depends on the human 
will; for example, all histories of the languages, customs and deeds of peoples 
in war and peace), of which, because of the deplorable obscurity of causes and 
almost infinite variety of effects, philosophy has had almost a horror of treat- 
ing; and reduces it to the form of a science by discovering in it the design of an 
ideal eternal history traversed in time by the histories of all nations; so that, on 
account of this its second principal aspect, our Science may be considered a 
philosophy of authority. For by virtue of new principles of mythology herein 
disclosed as consequences of the new principles of poetry found herein, it is 
shown that the fables were true and trustworthy histories of the customs of 
the most ancient peoples of Greece. In the first place, the fables of the gods were 
stories of the times in which men of the crudest gentile humanity thought that 
all things necessary or useful to the human race were deities. The authors of this 
poetry were the first peoples, whom we find to have been all theological poets, 
who without doubt, as we are told, founded the gentile nations with fables of 
the gods. And here, by the principles of this new critical art, we consider at what 
determinate times and on what particular occasions of human necessity or 
utility felt by the first men of the gentile world, they, with frightful religions 
which they themselves feigned and believed in, imagined first such and such 
gods and then such and such others. The natural theogony or generation of the 
gods, formed naturally in the minds of these first men, may give us a rational 
chronology of the poetic history of the gods. [In the second place,] the heroic 
fables were true stories of the heroes and their heroic customs, which are found 
to have flourished in the barbarous period of all nations; so that the two poems 
of Homer are found to be two great treasure houses of discoveries of the natural 
law of nations among the still barbarous Greeks. In the present work this 
period of barbarism is determined to have lasted among the Greeks until the 
time of Herodotus, called the father of Greek history, whose books are for the 
most part full of fables and whose style retains very much of the Homeric. This 
is a characteristic retained by all the historians who came after him, as they 
used a phraseology half way between the poetic and the vulgar. But Thucyd- 
ides, the first scrupulous and serious historian of Greece, at the beginning of 
his account, declares that down to his father's time (and thus to that of Herod- 
otus, who was an old man when Thucydides was a child) the Greeks were 
quite ignorant of their own antiquities, to say nothing of those of other peoples 
(which, apart from the Roman, have all come down to us through the Greeks). 
These antiquities are the deep shadows which the picture shows in the back- 
ground, against which there stand forth, in the light of the ray of divine provi- 
dence reflected by metaphysic upon Homer, all the hieroglyphs which represent 
the principles, known until now only by the effects, of this world of nations. 
8 Among these [hieroglyphs] the most prominent is an altar, because 


among all peoples the civil world began with religion, as we have briefly noted 
a while back and as we shall shortly observe more fully. 

9 Upon the altar, at the left, the first object we see is a lituus, the staff 
with which the augurs took auguries and observed the auspices. This signifies 
divination, from which, among the gentiles, the first divine things took their 
origin. The Hebrews thought God to be an infinite Mind beholding all times in 
one point of eternity, whence God, either Himself or through the angels that 
are minds or through the prophets to whose minds God spoke, gave notice of 
what was in store for His people. The gentiles fancied bodies to be gods, that 
by sensible signs they might give notice of what was in store for the peoples. 
On account of the attribute of His providence, as true among the Hebrews as 
it was imagined among the gentiles, all humankind gave to the nature of God 
the name "divinity" by one common idea, which the Latins expressed in 
divinari, "to foretell the future"; but with the aforesaid fundamental difference 
from which derive all the other essential differences shown by our Science be- 
tween the natural law of the Hebrews and the natural law of nations. The 
Roman jurisconsults defined the latter as having been ordained by divine provi- 
dence along with human customs themselves. Thus the aforesaid lituus repre- 
sents also the beginning of gentile universal history, which is shown by physical 
and philological evidence to have begun with the universal flood. After an inter- 
val of two centuries (as fabulous history relates), Heaven reigned on earth and 
bestowed many and great blessings on mankind, and, by uniformity of ideas 
among orientals, Egyptians, Greeks, Latins and other gentile nations, there 
arose equally the religions of as many Joves. For at the end of this period of 
time after the flood, heaven must have thundered and lightened, and from the 
thunder and lightning of its Jove each nation began to take auspices. This 
multiplicity of Joves, which led the Egyptians to call their Jove Ammon the 
oldest of them all, has hitherto been a marvel to the philologians. The same two- 
fold evidence proves the religion of the Hebrews more ancient than those by 
which the nations were founded, and hence the truth of the Christian religion. 

10 On the altar near the lituus may be seen the water and fire, the former 
contained in a jar. For with a view to divination sacrifices arose among the 
gentiles from that common custom of theirs which the Latins called procurare 
auspicia, i.e. to sacrifice in order to understand the auguries well so that the 
divine warnings or commands of Jove might be properly carried out. These are 
the divine things among the gentiles, from which came later all their human 

11 The first of these [human things] was marriage, symbolized by the 
torch lit from the fire on the altar and leaning against the jar. For marriage, as 
all statesmen agree, is the seed-plot of the family, as the family is the seed-plot 
of the common weal th.To denote this, the torch, although it i r the hieroglyph of 
a human thing, is placed on the altar along with the water and the fire, which 
are hieroglyphs of divine ceremonies; just as the ancient Romans celebrated 


nuptials aqua et igni, because it was understood that by divine counsel these 
two common things (and, before fire even, perennial water as a thing more 
necessary to life) had led men to live in society. 

12 The second of human things is burial. (Indeed humanhas in Latin 
comes first and properly from humando, "burying.") This institution is sym- 
bolized by a cinerary urn, placed to one side within the forest, indicating that 
burial goes pack to a time when men ate fruit in summer and acorns in winter. 
The urn is inscribed D. A/., which means "to the good souls of the dead." This 
motto represents the common consent of all mankind in the opinion later proved 
true by Plato, that human souls do not die with their bodies but that they are 

13 The urn indicates also the origin among the gentiles of the division 
of the fields, to which is to be traced the distinction of cities and peoples and 
finally of nations. For it will be found that the races, first of Ham, then of 
Japheth and finally of Shem, without the religion of their father Noah, which 
they had repudiated (and which alone, in what was then the state of nature, 
could have held them by marriages in a society of families), were lost from one 
another by roving wild in the great forest of the earth, pursuing shy and in- 
docile women, and fleeing from the wild animals with which the great ancient 
forest must have abounded. They were scattered further in search of pasture 
and water, and as the result of it all were reduced, at the end of a long period, 
to the condition of beasts. Then, on certain occasions ordained by divine provi- 
dence (occasions which our Science studies and discovers), shaken and aroused 
by a terrible fear, each of the particular Uranus and Jove he had feigned and 
believed in, some of them finally left off wandering and went into hiding in 
definite places. There, settled with particular women, through fear of the ap- 
prehended divinity, in religious and chaste carnal unions they solemnized mar- 
riages under cover and begat acknowledged children and so founded families. 
By long residence and burial of their dead they came to found and divide the 
first dominions of the earth, whose lords were called giants, a Greek word mean- 
ing "children of the earth," i.e. descendants of those who have been buried. 
Hence they considered themselves noble, justly ascribing their nobility in that 
first state of human things to their having been humanly engendered in the 
fear of the divinity. From this manner of human engendering and not from 
anything else, what is called human generation took its name. The houses which 
had branched out into several families thus formed were called the first nations 
[gentes] because of such generation. As the subject matter of the natural law of 
nations begins at so early a time, so in this work the doctrine begins there too. 
This is a third principal aspect under which our Science should be viewed. Now 
there are both physical and moral reasons, apart from the authority of history, 
to show that the giants must have been of disproportionate strength and stature. 
Since these reasons did not obtain in the case of believers in the true God, creator 
of the world and of Adam the prince of all humankind, the Hebrews from the 


very beginning of the world were of proper stature. So, after the first principle 
of divine providence and the second of solemn matrimony, the universal belief 
in the immortality of the soul, which had its beginnings in the institution of 
burial, is the third of the three principles on which this Science bases its discus- 
sions of the origins of all the innumerable various and diverse things of which 
it treats. 

14 From the forests where the urn is placed a plough stands forth, 
signifying that the fathers of the first peoples were the first strong men of 
history. Hence the founders of the first gentile nations above mentioned were 
the Herculeses (of whom Varro counted a good forty and the Egyptians claimed 
theirs to be the most ancient), for these Herculeses subdued the first lands of 
the world and brought them under cultivation. Thus the first fathers of the 
gentile nations who were [i] just in virtue of the supposed piety of observing 
the auspices which they believed divine commands of Jove (from whose Latin 
name lous came the old word ious for "law," later contracted to ius; so that 
justice among all peoples is naturally taught along with piety); [2] prudent 
in sacrificing to obtain or clearly to understand the auspices, and thus to take 
good counsel of what, by the commands of Jove, they should undertake in life; 
and [3] temperate in the institution of matrimony were also, as is here in- 
dicated, [4] strong men. Hence new principles are given to moral philosophy, in 
order that the esoteric wisdom of the philosophers may conspire with the vulgar 
wisdom of lawmakers. By these principles all the virtues have their roots in 
piety and religion, by which alone the virtues are made effective in action, and 
by reason of which men propose to themselves as good whatever God wills. New 
principles are given also to economic doctrine, by which sons, so long as they 
are in the power of their fathers, must be considered to be in the family state, and 
consequently are in no other way to be formed and confirmed in all their 
studies than in piety and religion. Since they are not yet capable of under- 
standing commonwealth and laws, they are to reverence and fear their fathers 
as living images of God, so as to be naturally disposed to follow the religion of 
their fathers and to defend their fatherland, which preserves their families for 
them, and so to obey the laws ordained for the preservation of their religion 
and fatherland. (For divine providence ordained human things with this eternal 
counsel: that families should first be founded by means of religions, and that 
upon the families commonwealths should then arise by means of laws.) 

15 The plough rests its handle against the altar with a certain majesty, 
to give us to understand that ploughed lands were the first altars of the gentiles, 
and to denote also the natural superiority which the heroes believed they had 
over their socii. (The latter, as we shall see shortly, are symbolized by the rudder 
which is seen bowing near the base of the altar.) On this superiority of nature, 
it will be shown, the heroes grounded the law, the science and hence the ad- 
ministration of divine things (i.e. the auspices), which were in their keeping. 

16 The plough shows only the point of the share and hides the mold- 


board. Before the use of iron was known, the share had to be made of a curved 
piece of very hard wood, capable of breaking and turning the earth. The Latins 
called the moldboard urbs, whence the ancient urbum, "curved." The moldboard 
is hidden to signify that the first cities, which were all founded on cultivated 
fields, arose as a result of families being for a long time quite withdrawn and hid- 
den among the sacred terrors of the religious forests. These [cultivated fields] are 
found among all the ancient gentile nations and, by an idea common to all, 
were called by the Latin peoples luci, meaning "burnt lands within the en- 
closure of the woods." The woods themselves were condemned by Moses to 
be burned wherever the people of God extended their conquests. This was by 
counsel of divine providence to the end that those who had already reached 
the stage of humanity should not again become confounded with the wanderers 
who still nefariously held property and women in common. 

17 There may be seen at the left side of the altar a rudder, symbolizing 
the origin of the migration of peoples by means of navigation. And by its seem- 
ing to bow at the foot of the altar, it symbolizes the ancestors of those who 
later were the authors of these migrations. These [ancestors] were at first im- 
pious men, who recognized no divinity; they were nefarious, since relations 
among them were not distinguished by marriages, and sons often lay with 
mothers and fathers with daughters; and finally, because like wild beasts they 
had no mind for society in the midst of this infamous communism of possessions, 
they were all alone and hence weak and finally miserable and unhappy, be- 
cause lacking all the goods which are necessary for preservation and security 
of life. Fleeing the several ills they suffered in the dissensions which this savage 
communism [of possessions] produced, and seeking escape and safety, they be- 
took themselves to the cultivated lands of the pious, chaste, strong and even 
powerful, that is, of those who were already united in family society. From these 
lands, it will be found, cities were called arae, "altars," throughout the ancient 
world of the gentiles. For they must have been the first altars of the gentile na- 
tions, and the first fire lighted on them was that which served to clear the 
forests of trees and bring them under cultivation, and the first water was that 
of the perennial springs, which were necessary in order that those destined to 
found humanity should no longer wander in bestial vagrancy in search of water, 
but settle for a long time in one place and give up vagabondage. And since 
these altars were evidently the first asylums of the world (which Livy defines 
generally as vetus urbcs condentium consilium, "an old counsel of founders 
of cities," as we are told that within the asylum opened in the grove Romulus 
founded Rome), hence the first cities were almost all called altars. To this 
minor discovery let us add a major one: that among the Greeks (from whom, 
as was said above, we have learned all that we know of gentile antiquity) the 
first Thrace or Scythia (i.e. the first North), the first Asia and the first India (i.e. 
the first East), the first Mauretania or Libya (i.e. the first South) and the first 
Europe or first Hesperia (i.e. the first West), and along with all these the first 


Ocean, were born within Greece itself; and then the Greeks, going abroad in 
the world, extended these names by analogy to its four parts and to the ocean 
that surrounds it. These discoveries, we assert, give new principles to geography, 
which, like the new principles already promised for chronology, are necessary 
if we are to read the ideal eternal history above mentioned. For chronology 
and geography are the two eyes of history. 

1 8 To these altars then, the impious-nomadic-weak, fleeing for their lives 
from the stronger, came seeking refuge, and the pious-strong killed the violent 
among them and took the weak under their protection. Since the latter brought 
with them nothing but their lives, they were accepted as famuli and given the 
means of sustaining life. The family took its name principally from these 
famuli, whose status roughly approximated that of the slaves who came later 
with the taking of prisoners in war. Hence like several branches from one trunk 
spring the origins (i) of the asylums, as we have seen; (2) of families, from 
which cities later arose, as we shall explain below; (3) of the founding of cities, 
that men might live secure from the unjust and the violent; (4) of jurisdictions 
to be exercised within prescribed territories; (5) of the extension of empires, 
which comes by the practice of justice, strength and magnanimity, which are 
the most luminous virtues of princes and states; (6) of family coats-of-arms, 
whose first fields-of-arms are found to have stood for the first seed-fields; (7) of 
fame, from which the famuli derived their name, and of glory, which is eternally 
inherent in serving the human race; (8) of true nobility, which arises naturally 
from the practice of the moral virtues; (9) of true heroism, which is to put 
down the proud and give aid to those in danger (in which heroism the Roman 
people surpassed all other peoples of the earth and so became master of the 
world); and lastly, (10) of war and peace, the former taking its start in the 
world from self-defense, in which the true virtue of strength consists. In all these 
origins one can trace the eternal plan of commonwealths, on which states, 
though acquired by violence and fraud, must take their stand in order to sur- 
vive, as on the other hand those acquired by way of these virtuous origins 
afterwards fall to ruin through fraud and violence. This plan of commonwealths 
is founded on the two eternal principles of this world of nations, namely the 
mind and the body of the men who compose it. For men consist of these two 
parts, one of which is noble and should therefore command, and the other of 
which is base and should serve. But because of the corruption of human nature, 
the generic character of men cannot without the help of philosophy (which can 
aid but few) bring it about that every individual's mind should command and 
not serve his body. Therefore divine providence ordained human things with 
this eternal order: that, in commonwealths, those who use their minds should 
command and those who use their bodies should obey. 

19 The rudder bows at the foot of the altar because famuli, as men 
without gods, had no share in divine things and consequently no community 
even of human things with the nobles. Above all, they lacked the right to cele- 


bratc solemn nuptials, which the Latins called connubium. The most solemn 
part of the ceremony was the taking of the auspices, by reason of which the 
nobles thought themselves to be of divine origin and held the famuli to be of 
bestial origin, as generated by nefarious couplings. Bound up with this distinc- 
tion of a nobler nature we find, equally among the Egyptians, Greeks and 
Latins, a presumed natural heroism, as is more than sufficiently made plain to 
us in ancient Roman history. 

20 Finally the rudder is at some distance from the plough, which is in 
front of the altar and displays to the rudder a hostile aspect, menacing it with 
its point. For the famuli, having no share, as we have seen, in the ownership 
of lands, which were all in the hands of the nobles, grew weary of being obliged 
always to serve their lords. At last, after a long period, they laid claim to the 
lands and rose in mutiny to enforce the claim, and revolted against the heroes in 
agrarian contests which, we shall learn, were much more ancient than and very 
different from those that we read of in later Roman history. Many leaders of 
bands of famuli which had rebelled and been conquered by the heroes (as the 
serfs of Egypt often were by their priests, according to the observation of Peter 
van der Kuhn, D<? republica hebraeorum), in order to avoid oppression and to 
find escape and safety along with the members of their factions, committed 
themselves to the hazards of the sea and went in search of unoccupied lands 
along the shores of the Mediterranean, toward the West where the coasts were 
not then inhabited. This is the origin of the transmigration of peoples already 
humanized by religion, starting from the East (Phoenicia above all) and from 
Egypt, as happened later, for the same reasons, in the case of the Greeks. In 
such wise not inundations of peoples, which cannot take place by sea; nor the 
jealous desire of keeping remote acquisitions by means of recognized colonies, 
since we do not read of any empire of the East or of Egypt or Greece being ex- 
tended into the West; nor reasons of trade, for the western coasts were not yet 
inhabited; but rather heroic law made it necessary for such bands of men in 
these nations to abandon their own lands, a thing which naturally happens only 
under some extreme necessity. By means of such colonies, which will accord- 
ingly be called "heroic overseas colonies," the human race was spread abroad in 
the rest of our world by sea, just as by means of the savage wanderings a long 
time before it had been spread abroad by land. 

21 Standing a little further out, in front of the plough, there is a tablet 
inscribed with an ancient Latin alphabet (which, as Tacitus relates, was similar 
to the ancient Greek) and, underneath, the latest alphabet that has come down 
to us. This tablet symbolizes the origin of the languages and letters that are 
called vulgar. These are found to have come into being a long time after the 
founding of the nations, and letters much later than languages. To signify this, 
the tablet rests on a fragment of a column of the Corinthian order, which 
came quite late among the architectural orders. 

22 The tablet lies near the plough and far from the rudder, to signify the 


origin of native languages, which were first formed each in its own land, where 
the founders of the nations, scattered and dispersed through the great forest 
of the earth as we have said above, finally came together by chance and ceased 
their bestial wandering. With these native languages the Eastern or Egyptian 
or Greek tongues long afterwards mingled, on the occasion of the above- 
mentioned transmigration of peoples to the shores of the Mediterranean and 
the Ocean. Here we get new principles of etymology, abundantly illustrated 
throughout this work, by which the origins of native words may be distinguished 
from those that are unquestionably of foreign origin. The important difference 
is that native etymologies are histories of things signified by the words in the 
natural order of ideas. First the woods, then cultivated fields and huts, next 
little houses and villages, thence cities, finally academies and philosophers: this 
is the order of all progress from the first origins. Foreign etymologies, on the 
other hand, are mere stories of words taken by one language from another. 

23 The tablet shows only the first letters of the alphabets and lies facing 
the statue of Homer. For the letters, as Greek tradition tells us of Greek letters, 
were not all invented at one time; at least they cannot all have been invented 
by Homer's time, for we know that he left none of his poems in writing. But 
of the origin of native languages more particular information will be given 
further on. 

24 Lastly, in the plane most illuminated of all, because the hieroglyphs 
there displayed represent the most familiar human things, the ingenious artist 
exhibits in capricious arrangement the Roman fasces, a sword and a purse lean- 
ing against the fasces, a balance and the caduceus of Mercury. 

25 The first of these symbols is the fasces because the first civil empires 
arose on the union of the paternal powers of the fathers. Among the gentiles 
these fathers were sages in auspicial divinity, priests who sacrificed to take the 
auspices or make sure of their meaning, and certainly monarchs who com- 
manded what they believed to be the will of the gods as shown in the auspices, 
and consequently were subject to no one but God. So the fasces are a bundle of 
litui or rods of divination, which we find to be the first scepters of the world. 
These fathers, in the agrarian disturbances we have mentioned above, in order 
to resist the bands of famuli aroused against them, were naturally led to unite 
and enclose themselves in the first orders of reigning senates (or senates made 
up of so many kings of families) under certain heads-of -orders. These are 
found to have been the first kings of the heroic cities. Ancient history tells us, 
though too obscurely, that in the first world of the peoples kings were created 
by nature; our studies discover the manner. Now these reigning senates, to con- 
tent the revolting bands of famuli and reduce them to obedience, granted them 
an agrarian law, which is found to have been the first civil law born in the 
world; and naturally the first plebs of the cities were composed of these famuli t 
subdued by this law. What the nobles granted the plebeians was natural domain 
of the fields, civil domain remaining with the nobles, who were the only citizens 


of the heroic cities. Thence arose the eminent domain of the orders which were 
the first civil or sovereign powers of the peoples. All three kinds of domain were 
formed and distinguished one from another at the birth of the commonwealths, 
which among all the nations, by one idea variously expressed, are found to have 
been called "Herculean commonwealths" or commonwealths of Curetes, armed 
men in public assembly. This clears up the origins of the famous ius Quiritium, 
which the interpreters of Roman law have thought to be peculiar to the citizens 
of Rome, as in later times it was; but in the ancient Roman times it was evi- 
dently a natural law of all the heroic peoples. And thence, as various streams 
from a common source, numerous origins spring forth, (i) The origin of cities, 
which arose from the families not of sons only but of famuli also. Thus they 
will be seen to be founded by nature on two communities, one of the nobles, 
to command, the other of the plebs, to obey. Of these two parts is composed the 
entire polity or law of civil governments. For it is shown that the first cities, of 
this or indeed any other kind, could not arise from families of sons only. (2) The 
origins of public empires, which were born from the union of private father- 
sovereign empires in the family state. (3) The origins of war and peace, whereby 
all commonwealths were brought into being by force of arms and then com- 
posed by laws. From the nature of these [two] human things derives their 
eternal property: that wars are waged so that peoples may live secure 
in peace. (4) The origin of fiefs, for by one sort of rustic fiefs the plebeians 
became subject to the nobles, and by another sort of noble or military 
fiefs the nobles, who were sovereign in their own families, became subject 
to the greater sovereignty of their heroic orders. We find that the kingdoms 
of barbarian times have always had a feudal basis. This sheds light on the history 
of the modern kingdoms of Europe, which arose in those latest barbarian times 
that are more obscure to us than the first barbarian times of which Varro wrote. 
For these first fields were given by the nobles to the plebs under burden of a 
payment [variously] called tithe of Hercules (among the Greeks) or census 
(which we find to be what Servius Tullius ordained for the Romans) or tribute. 
The plebs were further obliged to serve the nobles in war at their own expense, 
as is plain to be seen in ancient Roman history. Here appears (5) the origin of 
the census which remained the basis of the popular commonwealths. Of all 
our researches into things Roman, the most difficult has been that of tracing the 
process by which this [popular census] developed from that of Servius Tullius, 
which will be found to have been the basis of the ancient aristocratic common- 
wealths. The relation between the two has made everyone fall into the error of 
assuming that Servius Tullius ordered the census as a basis for popular liberty. 
26 From the same beginning come also: (6) The origin of commerce, 
which, in the form we have indicated, began in real estate with the beginnings 
of the cities themselves. The term "commerce" is derived from that first merces 
or payment in the world, the fields which the heroes gave the famuli under the 


aforesaid law obliging the latter to serve them. (7) The origin of public treas- 
uries, the rudiments of which were there from the birth of the commonwealths 
but which assumed the recognizable form properly called aeraria (from aes 
aeris in the sense of "money") when the public had to supply money to the 
plebs in war time. (8) The origin of colonies, which are found to have been 
bands first of peasants who served the heroes for the sustenance of their lives, 
then of vassals who cultivated the fields for themselves under the aforesaid real 
and personal obligations. These we shall call heroic inland colonies to differ- 
entiate them from the overseas colonies mentioned above. And finally (9) the 
origins of the commonwealths, which had at their birth a most severe aristocratic 
form, in which the plebeians had no share in the civil law. In this connection 
the Roman commonwealth is found to have been an aristocratic kingdom which 
fell under the tyranny of Tarquinius Superbus, who sadly misgoverned the 
nobles and almost destroyed the senate. When Lucretia stabbed herself, Junius 
Brutus seized the occasion to arouse the plebs against the Tarquins, and, having 
freed Rome from their tyranny, reestablished the senate and reorganized the 
commonwealth on its first principles. For by substituting two annual consuls 
for one king for life, he did not introduce popular liberty but rather reaffirmed 
the liberty of the nobles. This is found to have lasted till the Publilian Law, 
which won for the dictator Publilius Philo the epithet "popular" by declaring 
that the Roman commonwealth had become popular in its form of government. 
Indeed it expired only with the Petelian Law, which completely freed the peo- 
ple from the feudal rustic right of private imprisonment which the nobles had 
over their plebeian debtors. These two laws, which contain the two major points 
in Roman history, have been pondered neither by statesmen nor by jurists nor 
by the learned interpreters of Roman law. For they have been misled by the 
fable that the Law of the Twelve Tables came from free Athens to set up popu- 
lar liberty in Rome, whereas these two laws declare it to have been set up at home 
by the natural customs of the Romans themselves. (This fable was exposed in 
the Principles of Universal Law, printed many years ago.) Therefore, since 
the laws of a commonwealth must be interpreted according to its form of gov- 
ernment, these principles of Roman government involve new principles for 
Roman jurisprudence. 

27 The sword leaning on the fasces indicates that heroic law was a law 
of force but subject to religion, which alone can keep force and arms in their 
place where judiciary laws do not yet exist or are no longer recognized. This 
law is precisely that of Achilles, the hero sung by Homer to the Greeks as an 
example of heroic virtue, who made arms the arbiter of right. Here is revealed 
the origin of duels; which, as they were certainly celebrated in the last barbarian 
times, so they are found to have been practiced in the first barbarian times when 
the mighty were not yet so tamed as to avenge offenses and injuries by appeal to 
judiciary laws. The duels they practiced were appeals to certain divine judg- 
ments. They called on God as witness and made God judge of the offense, and 


accepted with such reverence the decision that was given by the fortune of 
the combat that even if the outraged party fell vanquished he was considered 
guilty. This was a lofty counsel of divine providence, to the end that, in fierce 
and barbarous times in which law was not understood, it might be measured 
by God's favor or disfavor, so that such private wars might not sow the seeds 
of [greater] wars which would have ended in the extinction of the human 
race. This natural barbarian sense can only be grounded in the innate concept 
which men have of that divine providence in which they must acquiesce when 
they see the good oppressed and the wicked prospering. For all these reasons 
the duel was thought to be a kind of divine purgation, and in barbarian times 
the belief in its necessity was quite as firm as the prohibition of it in the humanity 
of our day with its civil and criminal courts. In such duels or private wars is 
found the origin of public wars which are waged by civil powers subject to no 
one but God, in order that God may settle them by the fortune of victory; so 
that the human race may rest on the certainty of civil states. This is the prin- 
ciple of the external justice, as it is called, of wars. 

28 The purse resting against the fasces shows that commerce carried 
on by means of money began late, after the civil empires were founded, so 
that we read of no coined money in either of the two poems of Homer. This 
same hieroglyph indicates the origin of such coined money, which is found 
to have been the same as that of family coats-of-arms. The latter (as we have 
intimated above in connection with the first fields-of-arms) are discovered to 
have signified rights and titles of nobility belonging to one family rather than 
to another. Thence came the origin of public emblems, or ensigns of the people, 
which were then raised as military ensigns used as a mute language by military 
discipline; and finally among all peoples they gave their imprint to coins. Here 
are given new principles to numismatics, and thereby also to the science of 
blazonry as it is called; which is one of the three topics on which we find our- 
selves satisfied with the first edition of the New Science. 

29 The balance next to the purse is meant to indicate that, after the 
aristocratic governments, which were heroic governments, there came human 
governments, at first popular in character. The people had finally come to 
understand that the rational nature (which is the true human nature) is equal 
in all men. From this natural equality (by occasions conceived in the ideal 
eternal history and encountered exactly in Roman history) they gradually 
brought the heroes to civil equality in popular commonwealths. This civil 
equality is symbolized by the balance, because, as the Greeks said, in the popular 
commonwealths everything goes by lot or by balance. But finally, as the free 
peoples could not by means of laws maintain themselves in civil equality be- 
cause of the factions of the powerful, but were being driven to ruin by civil 
wars, it came about naturally that, obeying a natural royal law or rather natural 
custom of human peoples, they sought protection under monarchies, which con- 
stitute the other type of human government. (This natural royal law is com- 


mon to all peoples in all times in popular states which have grown corrupt, but 
the civil royal law, which is said to have been commanded by the Roman peo- 
ple to legitimize the Roman monarchy in the person of Augustus, is shown in 
our Principles of Universal Law to have been a fable. Our demonstration of 
this, and of the legendary nature of the story that the Law of the Twelve Tables 
came from Athens, are two passages which permit us to believe that we did not 
write that work in vain.) In the humanity of our day, there are alternations of 
these last two forms of government, both human, but neither of the two passes 
by nature into an aristocratic state where only the nobles command and all 
the others obey. Hence the commonwealths of nobles now left in the world 
are few and far between: Nuremberg in Germany; Ragusa in Dalmatia; Venice, 
Genoa and Lucca in Italy. These, then, are the three types of states that divine 
providence, through the natural customs of the nations, has caused to come 
into the world, and they succeed one another in this natural order. Since other 
types, arising by human providence as mixtures of these three, are not sup- 
ported by the nature of nations, they were characterized by Tacitus (who saw 
only the effects of the causes we here point out and later treat more fully) as 
"more laudable than susceptible of attainment, and if by chance any do occur 
they are not at all lasting." By this discovery new principles are given to polit- 
ical theory, not merely different from but contrary to those which have been 
imagined hitherto. 

30 The caduceus is the last of the hieroglyphs, to tell us that the first 
peoples, in their heroic times when the natural law of force reigned supreme, 
looked upon each other as perpetual enemies, and pillage and piracy were con- 
tinual because, as war was eternal between them, there was no need of declara- 
tions. (Indeed, as in the first barbarian times the heroes considered it a title of 
honor to be called thieves, so in the returned barbarian times the powerful re- 
joiced to be called pirates.) But when human governments had been estab- 
lished, whether popular or monarchical, by the law of human peoples heralds 
were introduced to give warning of wars, and periods of hostility began to be 
terminated by treaties of peace. And this by a high counsel of divine providence, 
to the end that nations in their period of barbarism, when they were new in 
the world and needed to take root, should remain circumscribed within their 
boundaries and not, fierce and untamed as they were, cross them to exterminate 
each other in wars; but after they had grown up and at the same time become 
familiar with each other and hence tolerant of each other's customs, it should 

hen be easy for conquering peoples to spare the lives of the conquered by the 
just laws of victory. 

31 So this New Science or metaphysic, pondering the common nature 
of nations in the light of divine providence, having discovered such origins of 
divine and human things among the gentile nations, establishes thence a system 
of the natural law of nations, which proceeds with the greatest equality and 
constancy through the three ages which the Egyptians handed down to us as 


the three periods through which the world had passed up to their time. These 
are: (i.) The age of the gods, in which the gentiles believed they lived under 
divine governments, and everything was commanded them by auspices and 
oracles, which are the oldest things in profane history. (2) The age of the 
heroes, in which they reigned everywhere in aristocratic commonwealths, on ac- 
count of a certain superiority of nature which they held themselves to have over 
the plebs. (3) The age of men, in which all men recognized themselves as equal 
in human nature, and therefore there were established first the popular common- 
wealths and then the monarchies, both of which are forms of human govern- 
ment, as we observed a short while ago [29]. 

32 In harmony with these three kinds of nature and government, three 
kinds of language were spoken which compose the vocabulary of this Science: 
( i ) That of the time of the families when gentile men were newly received into 
humanity. This, we shall find, was a mute language of signs and physical objects 
having natural relations to the ideas they wished to express. (2) That spoken by 
means of heroic emblems, or similitudes, comparisons, images, metaphors, and 
natural descriptions, which make up the great body of the heroic language 
which was spoken at the time the heroes reigned. (3) Human language using 
words agreed upon by the people, a language of which they are absolute lords, 
and which is proper to the popular commonwealths and monarchical states; 
a language whereby the people may fix the meaning of the laws by which the 
nobles as well as the plebs are bound. Hence, among all nations, once the laws 
had been put into the vulgar tongue, the science of laws passed from the control 
of the nobles. Hitherto, among all nations, the nobles had kept the laws in a 
secret language as a sacred thing, for it will be found that everywhere the nobles 
were also priests. That is the natural reason for the secrecy of the laws among 
the Roman patricians until popular liberty arose. Now these are the same three 
languages that the Egyptians claimed had been spoken before in their world, 
corresponding exactly both in number and in sequence to the three ages that had 
run their course before them, (i) The hieroglyphic or sacred or secret lan- 
guage, by means of mute acts. This is suited to the uses of religion, which it 
is more important to attend to than to talk about. (2) The symbolic, by means 
of similitudes, such as we have just seen the heroic language to have been. (3) 
The epistolary or vulgar, which served the common uses of life. These three 
types of language are found among the Chaldeans, Scythians, Egyptians, Ger- 
mans, and all the other ancient gentile nations; although hieroglyphic writing 
was best preserved among the Egyptians, because for a longer time than the 
other peoples they were closed to all foreign nations (it is for the same reason 
that it has been found to exist still among the Chinese), and hence we have 
a proof of the vanity of their imagined remote antiquity. 

33 We here bring to light the beginnings not only of languages but also 
of letters, which philology has hitherto despaired of finding. We shall give a 
specimen [430] of the extravagant and monstrous opinions that have been held 


up to now. We shall observe that the unhappy cause of this effect is that philol- 
ogists have believed that among the nations languages first came into being 
and then letters; whereas (to give here a brief indication of what will be fully 
proved in this volume) letters and languages were born twins and proceeded 
apace through all their three stages. These beginnings are precisely exhibited 
in the causes of the Latin language, as set forth in the first edition of the New 
Science (which is the second of the three passages on whose account we do not 
regret that book). By the reasoning out of these causes many discoveries have 
been made in ancient Roman history, government and law, as you will observe 
a thousand times, O reader, in this volume. From this example, scholars of 
oriental languages, of Greek, and, among the modern languages, particularly 
of German, which is a mother language, will be enabled to make discoveries of 
antiquities far beyond their expectations and ours. 

34 We find that the principle of these origins both of languages and of 
letters lies in the fact that the early gentile peoples, by a demonstrated neces- 
sity of nature, were poets who spoke in poetic characters. This discovery, which 
is the master key of this Science, has cost us the persistent research of almost 
all our literary life, because with our civilized natures we cannot at all imagine 
and can only understand by great toil the poetic nature of these first men. The 
[poetic] characters of which we speak are found to have been certain imagina- 
tive genera (images for the most part of animate beings, of gods or heroes, 
formed by their imagination) to which they reduced all the species or all the 
particulars appertaining to each genus; exactly as the fables of human times, 
such as those of late comedy, are intelligible genera reasoned out by moral 
philosophy, from which the comic poets form imaginative genera (for the 
perfected ideas of the various human types are nothing but that) which are the 
persons of the comedies. Hence such divine or heroic characters are found to 
have been true fables or stories, and their allegories are discovered to contain 
meanings not analogical but univocal, not philosophical but historical, of the 
peoples of Greece of those times. Furthermore, since these genera (for that is 
what the fables in essence are) were formed by most vigorous imaginations, 
as in men of the feeblest reasoning powers, we discover in them true poetic 
sentences, which must be sentiments clothed in the greatest passions and there- 
fore full of sublimity and arousing wonder. Furthermore the sources of all 
poetic locution are found to be two: poverty of language and necessity to explain 
and make oneself understood. Hence it is evident that heroic speech followed 
immediately on the mute language of acts and objects that had natural rela- 
tions to the ideas they were meant to signify, which was used in the divine 
times. And finally, through the necessary natural course of human things, lan- 
guage among the Assyrians, Syrians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks and 
Latins will be found to have begun with heroic verses, thence to have passed to 
iambics and finally to have settled into prose. This gives certainty to the his- 
tory of the ancient poets and explains why in the German language, par- 


ticularly in Silesia, a province of peasants, there are many natural versifiers, and 
in the Spanish, French and Italian languages the first authors wrote in verse. 

35 From these three languages is formed the mental dictionary by which 
to interpret properly all the various articulated languages, and we make use of 
it here wherever it is needed. In the first edition of the New Science we gave a 
full particular example of it, in which this idea was presented: that from the 
eternal properties of the fathers, which we in virtue of this Science considered 
them to have had in the state of the families and of the first heroic cities in 
the time when the languages were formed, we find proper meanings [of terms] 
in fifteen different languages, both dead and living, by which they were di- 
versely called, sometimes from one property and sometimes from another. (This 
is the third passage in which we take satisfaction in that edition of our book.) 
Such a lexicon is necessary for learning the language spoken by the ideal eternal 
history traversed in time by the histories of all nations, and for scientifically ad- 
ducing authorities to confirm what is discussed in the natural law of nations 
and hence in every particular jurisprudence. 

36 Along with these three languages proper to the three ages in which 
three forms of government prevailed, conforming to three types of civil natures, 
which succeed one another as the nations run their course we find there went 
also in the same order a jurisprudence suited to each in its time. 

37 Of these [three types of jurisprudence] the first was a mystic the- 
ology, which prevailed in the period when the gentiles were commanded by the 
gods. Its wise men were the theological poets (who are said to have founded 
gentile humanity) who interpreted the mysteries of the oracles, which among 
all nations gave their responses in verse. Thus we find that the mysteries of 
this vulgar wisdom were hidden in the fables. In this connection we inquire into 
the reasons why the philosophers later had such a desire to recover the wisdom of 
the ancients, as well as into the occasions the fables provided them for be- 
stirring themselves to meditate lofty things in philosophy, and into the oppor- 
tunities they had for reading their own hidden wisdom into the fables. 

38 The second was the heroic jurisprudence, all verbal scrupulosity (in 
which Ulysses was manifestly expert). This jurisprudence looked to what the 
Roman jurisconsults called civil equity and we call reason of state. With their 
limited ideas, the heroes thought they had a natural right to precisely what, how 
much and of what sort had been set forth in words; as even now we may ob- 
serve in peasants and other crude men, who in conflicts between words and 
meanings obstinately say that their right stands for them in the words. And 
this by counsel of divine providence to the end that the gentiles, not yet being 
capable of universals, which good laws must be, might be led by this very par- 
ticularity of their words to observe the laws universally. And if, as a conse- 
quence of this [civil] equity, the laws turned out in a given case to be not only 
harsh but actually cruel, they naturally bore it because they thought their law 
was naturally such. Furthermore they were led to observe their laws by their 


own highest interest, with which, we find, the heroes identified that of their 
fatherlands, of which they were the only citizens. Hence they did not hesitate, 
for the safety of their various fatherlands, to consecrate themselves and their 
families to the will of the laws, which by maintaining the common security 
of the fatherland kept secure for each of them a certain private monarchical 
reign over his family. Moreover it was this great private interest, in conjunc- 
tion with the supreme arrogance characteristic of barbarous times, which formed 
their heroic nature, whence came so many heroic actions in defense of their 
fatherlands. To these heroic deeds we must add intolerable pride, profound ava- 
rice and the pitiless cruelty with which the ancient Roman patricians treated 
the unhappy plebeians, as is clearly seen in Roman history precisely during 
that period which Livy himself describes as having been the age of Roman 
virtue and of the most flourishing popular liberty yet dreamed of in Rome. It 
will be found that such public virtue was nothing but a good use which provi- 
dence made of such grievous, ugly and cruel private vices, in order that the 
cities might be preserved during a period when the minds of men, intent on 
particulars, could not naturally understand a common good. Thence are de- 
rived new principles by which to demonstrate the argument of St. Augustine's 
discussion of the virtue of the Romans [City of God, V, 12]; and the opinion 
hitherto held by the learned concerning the heroism of primitive peoples is put 
to rout. Civil equity of this sort we find naturally observed by the heroic na- 
tions in peace as well as in war (shining examples are adduced from the history 
of the first barbarian times as well as from that of the last); and it was prac- 
ticed privately by the Romans as long as theirs was an aristocratic common- 
wealth, that is to say down to the times of the Publilian and Petelian laws, until 
which time everything was based on the Law of the Twelve Tables. 

39 The last type of jurisprudence was that of natural equity, which 
reigns naturally in the free commonwealths, where the peoples, each for its 
particular good (without understanding that it is the same for all), are led to 
command universal laws. They naturally desire these laws to bend benignly to 
the least details of matters calling for equal utility. This is the aequum bonum, 
subject of the latest Roman jurisprudence, which from the times of Cicero had 
begun to be transformed by the edict of the Roman praetor. This type is also 
and perhaps even more connatural with monarchies, in which the monarchs have 
accustomed their subjects to attend to their own private interests, while they 
themselves have taken charge of all public affairs, and desire all nations sub- 
ject to them to be made equal by the laws, in order that all may be equally 
interested in the state. Wherefore the emperor Hadrian reformed the entire 
heroic natural law of Rome with the aid of the human natural law of the prov- 
inces, and commanded that jurisprudence should be based on the Perpetual 
Edict which Salvius Julianus composed almost entirely f:om the provincial 

40 We may now recapitulate all the prime elements of this world of na- 


dons by reference to the hieroglyphs which stand for them. The lituus, water 
and fire on the altar, the cinerary urn within the forest, the plough leaning 
against the altar, and the rudder prostrate at the foot of the altar signify divina- 
tion, sacrifices, the first families including sons only, the practice of burial, the 
cultivation of the fields and their division, the asylums, the later families in- 
cluding famuli, the first agrarian conflicts and hence the first heroic inland 
colonies and, when these failed, the overseas colonies and with these the first 
transmigrations of peoples. All these came within the Egyptian age of the 
gods, which Varro through ignorance or negligence called "the obscure period," 
as we have seen above. The fasces signify the first heroic commonwealths, the 
distinction of the three domains (natural, civil and eminent), the first civil em- 
pires, the first unequal alliances accorded under the first agrarian law by which 
these first cities were founded on rustic fiefs of the plebeians, which in turn 
were subfiefs of the noble fiefs of the heroes, who, though themselves sover- 
eigns, became subjects of the higher sovereignty of the reigning heroic orders. 
The sword leaning on the fasces signifies the public wars that were waged by 
these cities, beginning with raids and rapine. (Duels, or private wars, must have 
started much earlier, as we shall show, within the state of the families.) The 
purse signifies devices of nobility or family coats-of-arms carried over onto 
medals, the first ensigns of the peoples, which later became military ensigns and 
finally coins, which here stand for the extension of trade to movable goods by 
means of money. (Trade in real estate, with natural prices in produce or work, 
had begun before in divine times with the first agrarian law, on the basis of 
which the commonwealths were born.) The balance signifies the laws of 
equality, which are laws properly speaking. Finally the caduceus signifies 
formally declared public wars, terminated by formal peace. All the hieroglyphs 
of this second group are far from the altar because they all stand for civil things 
of the times in which the false religions were slowly disappearing, beginning 
with the heroic agrarian conflicts, which gave the name to the Egyptian age of 
heroes, called by Varro the "fabulous period." The tablet with the alphabets is 
put between the divine and human symbols because with letters, from which 
philosophies had their beginning, the false religions began to disappear; in con- 
trast with the true, which is our Christian religion, which indeed is humanly 
confirmed to us by the most sublime philosophies, the Platonic and the Peri- 
patetic (insofar as it conforms to the Platonic). 

41 The whole idea of this work may be summed up as follows. The 
darkness in the background of the picture is the material of this Science, un- 
certain, unformed, obscure, which is set forth in the Chronological Table and 
in the Notes upon it. The ray with which divine providence lights up the 
breast of mctaphysic represents the Axioms, Definitions and Postulates that 
this Science takes as Elements from which to deduce the Principles on which 
it is based and the Method by which it proceeds. All these things are contained 
in the first book. The ray that is reflected from the breast of metaphysic onto 


the statue of Homer is the proper light which is given to poetic wisdom in the 
second book, and by which the true Homer is elucidated in the third book. By 
"The Discovery of the True Homer" everything that makes up this world of 
nations is clarified, proceeding from their origins according to the order in 
which the hieroglyphs come forth into the light of the true Homer. This is the 
Course of Nations considered in the fourth book. And having arrived finally 
at the foot of the statue of Homer, they begin a Recurrence in the same order. 
Of this we treat in the fifth and last book. 

42 Last of all, to state the idea of the book in the briefest summary, the 
entire engraving represents the three worlds in the order in which the human 
minds of the gentiles have been raised from earth to heaven. All the hieroglyphs 
visible on the ground denote the world of nations to which men applied them- 
selves before anything else. The globe in the middle represents the world of 
nature which the physicists later observed. The hieroglyphs above signify the 
world of minds and of God which the metaphysicians finally contemplated. 





[Chronological table, based on the three temporal epochs of the Egyptians, who said all the 
world before them had passed through three ages: that of the gods, that of the heroes, and that 
of men.] 

43 This Chronological Table sets forth in outline the world of the an- 
cient nations, starting from the universal flood and passing from the Hebrews 
through the Chaldeans, Scythians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans 
down to the Second Punic War. On it there appear men and deeds of the 
greatest renown, assigned to certain times and places by the community of 
scholars. These men and deeds either did not have their being at the times or 
in the places to which they have been commonly assigned, or never existed at 
all. On the other hand, from the long dark shadows where they have lain buried, 
notable men and most pertinent facts emerge, through whom and by which 
the decisive changes in human affairs have come about. All this is set forth in 
these Notes, to show how uncertain, unseemly, defective, or vain are the be- 
ginnings of the nations. 

44 Moreover this Table takes a position quite opposed to that of the 
Chronological Canon [Canon chronicon, aegyptiacus, hebraicus, graecus] of 
John Marsham, in which he tries to prove that the Egyptians preceded all the 
nations of the world in government and religion, and that their sacred rites 
and civil ordinances, transported to other peoples, were received with some 
emendation by the Hebrews. In this opinion he was followed by [John] Spencer 
in his dissertation De Urim et Tummim, in which he expresses the opinion that 
the Israelites had taken from the Egyptians all their science of divine things by 
means of the sacred Cabala. Finally Marsham was acclaimed by van Heurn in 
his Antiquitates philosophiae barbaricae, in which, in the part entitled Chal- 
daicus, he writes that Moses, instructed in the knowledge of them by the 
Egyptians, had brought divine things to the Hebrews in his kws. Against this 
line of argument arose Hermann Wits in his Aegyptiaca. He thinks that the first 
gentile author to give us reliable information about the Egyptians was Dion 


Cassias, who flourished under the philosopher Marcus Aurelius. But on this 
point he may be confuted by the Annals of Tacitus, in which we are told that 
Germanicus, having gone into the East, proceeded thence to Egypt to see the 
famous antiquities of Thebes, and had one of the priests there interpret to him 
the hieroglyphs inscribed on some of the monuments. The priest, talking 
foolishly, told him that those characters preserved the memory of the boundless 
power that their king Ramses had held in Africa, in the East and even in Asia 
Minor, equal to the power of the Romans in their own time, which was very 
great. But this passage, perhaps because it was contrary to his position, Wits said 
nothing about. 

45 But certainly such boundless antiquity did not yield much recondite 
wisdom to the inland Egyptians. For in the time of Clement of Alexandria, as 
he recounts in his Miscellanies [Stromata], their so-called "priestly" books were 
in circulation to the number of forty-two, and they contained the greatest errors 
in philosophy and astronomy, for which Chaeremon, teacher of St. Dionysius 
the Areopagite, is often scoffed at by Strabo. Their ideas about medicine are 
found by Galen in his discussion of Hermetic medicine to be obvious nonsense 
and mere quackery. Their morality was dissolute, for it not only tolerated or 
permitted harlots but made them respectable. Their theology was full of super- 
stition, magic and witchcraft. And the magnificence of their pyramids and other 
monuments might well have sprung from barbarism, which accords well with 
hugeness. Egyptian sculpture and casting are regarded even today as extremely 
crude. For delicacy is the fruit of philosophy, wherefore Greece alone, which 
was the nation of philosophers, shone with all the fine arts that human genius 
has ever discovered: painting, sculpture, casting, and the arts of engraving, 
which are most delicate because they are compelled to abstract the surfaces of 
the bodies they represent. 

46 This ancient wisdom of the Egyptians was raised to the stars by 
Alexandria, founded on the sea by Alexander the Great. Uniting African acute- 
ness with Greek delicacy, it produced distinguished philosophers in divinity, 
through whom the city gained such renown for high divine wisdom that the 
Alexandrian Museum was later as much celebrated as the Academy, the Lyceum, 
the Stoa and the Cynosarges all together had been in Athens. Alexandria was 
called on this account "the mother of the sciences." Such was its excellence that 
the Greeks called it simply Polls, "The City," as Athens was called Astu and 
Rome Urbs. Thence came Manetho, the Egyptian high priest, who turned all 
Egyptian history into a sublime natural theology, just as the Greek philosophers 
had previously done with their fables, which will here be found to have been 
their most ancient histories. This explains why the same thing happened to the 
Greek fables as to the Egyptian hieroglyphs. 

47 With such a show of high wisdom, the nation, arrogant by nature 
(and hence mockingly called "animals of glory"), in a city which was a great 
emporium of the Mediterranean and, through the Red Sea, of the Ocean and 


the Indies (a city among whose abominable customs was that related by Tacitus 
in a golden passage, that it was "avid of new religions"), believed that the 
false gods which were scattered abroad in the world (as they learned from the 
nations which met there for maritime trade) must all have originated in their 
Egypt, and that their Jove Ammon was the oldest of all Joves (of which every 
gentile nation had one), and that the Herculeses of all the other nations 
(Varro enumerated as many as forty) must have taken their names from their 
Egyptian Hercules. These [pretensions], both reported to us by Tacitus, were 
due in part to the prejudiced opinion of their exceptional antiquity, which they 
vainly boasted over all other nations of the world, adding that in ancient times 
they had lorded it over a great part of the world. They were due in part also to 
their not knowing the way in which uniform ideas of gods and heroes were 
born among the gentile peoples without their having any knowledge of each 
other, as we shall fully demonstrate later on. Now for all the too flattering judg- 
ments with which Diodorus Siculus (who lived in the times of Augustus) 
adorns the Egyptians, he does not accord them more than two thousand years 
of antiquity, and his judgments are overthrown by Jacques Cappel in his His- 
toria sacra et exotica, who puts them in the same class with those which Xeno- 
phon had ascribed to Cyrus (and we may add those which Plato often feigns of 
the Persians). Finally all this concerning the vanity of the high ancient wis- 
dom of the Egyptians is confirmed by the hoax of the Poimander, palmed off as 
Hermetic doctrine. Saumaise considered this fragment a disordered and badly 
composed collection of things, and Casaubon found that it contained no doc- 
trine more ancient than that which the Platonists set forth in the same phrase- 

48 This false opinion of their great antiquity was caused among the 
Egyptians by a property of the human mind that of being indefinite by which 
it is often led to believe that the things it does not know are vastly greater than 
in fact they are. The Egyptians were in this respect like the Chinese, who grew 
up into such a great nation cut off from all foreign nations, for the Egyptians 
were similarly cut off until Psammeticus, and the Scythians until Idanthyrsus. 
The latter indeed, according to a vulgar tradition, surpassed the Egyptians in 
antiquity. This vulgar tradition must have taken its start from [the legendary 
episode] with which profane universal history begins. It sets up, in Justin's ver- 
sion, as two pre-beginnings antedating the monarchy of the Assyrians, two 
powerful kings, Tanaus the Scythian and Sesostris the Egyptian, who have until 
now made the world seem older than it really is. [The story goes] that Tanaus 
had moved first through the East with a great army to subdue Egypt, which 
is by nature very difficult to penetrate with an army, and that then Sesostris 
with an equally great host had moved to subdue Scythia. Yet Scythia lived un- 
known to the Persians themselves (who had extended their monarchy over 
that of the Medes, their neighbors) down to the time of Darius called the Great, 
who declared war on Idanthyrsus, king of the Scythians; and this king was 


so barbarous even in the days of a most civilized Persia that he answered him 
with five real words in the form of five objects, since he did not even know how 
to write with hieroglyphs. And we are to believe that these two great and mighty 
kings crossed Asia with two great hosts without making it a province either of 
Scythia or Egypt, but leaving it in such liberty that there later grew up there the 
first of the four most famous monarchies in the world, that of Assyria ! 

49 For the same reason, perhaps, the Chaldeans did not fail to enter 
the lists in this contest of antiquity. They too were an inland people and, as 
we shall show, more ancient than the other two, who vainly boasted that they 
had preserved the astronomical observations of a good twenty-eight thousand 
years. This was perhaps the reason that Flavius Josephus the Jew erroneously 
regarded as antediluvian the observations described on the two columns, one 
of marble and one of brick, raised against the two floods, and thought that he 
himself had seen the marble one in Syria. So important was it to the ancient na- 
tions to preserve astronomical records, whereas this sense was quite dead among 
the nations that followed them! Wherefore this column finds its proper place in 
the museum of credulity. 

50 But the Chinese are found writing in hieroglyphs just as the ancient 
Egyptians did (to say nothing of the Scythians, who did not even know 
how to put their hieroglyphs in writing). For many thousands of years 
they had no commerce with other nations by whom they might have been in- 
formed concerning the real antiquity of the world. Just as a man confined while 
asleep in a very small dark room, in horror of darkness [on waking] believes it 
certainly much larger than groping with his hands will show it to be, so, in the 
darkness of their chronology, the Chinese and the Egyptians have done, and 
the Chaldeans likewise. It is true that Father Michele Ruggieri, a Jesuit, de- 
clares that he has himself read books printed before the coming of Jesus Christ. 
It is true further that Father Martini, another Jesuit, in his Sinica historia as- 
cribes a great antiquity to Confucius, which has led many into atheism, as we 
are informed by Martin Schoock in his Diluvium Noachi universale, in which 
he says that Isaac de la Peyrere, author of the Prcadamitae, perhaps for that 
reason abandoned the Catholic faith and then wrote that the flood spread over 
the lands of the Hebrews only. Nevertheless Nicolas Trigault, better informed 
than Ruggieri or Martini, writes in his De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas 
that printing was in use in China not more than two centuries earlier than in 
Europe, and that Confucius flourished not more than five hundred years be- 
fore Christ. And the Confucian philosophy, like the priestly books of the 
Egyptians, in its few references to physical nature is crude and clumsy, and it 
turns almost entirely on a vulgar moral code, that is to say on morals com- 
manded to the people by laws. 

51 Premising such reflections on the vain opinion of their own antiquity 
held by these gentile nations and above all by the Egyptians, we should begin 
our study of gentile learning [tutto lo scibile gentilesco] by scientifically ascer- 


taining this important starting-point where and when that learning had its 
first beginnings in the world and by adducing human reasons thereby in sup- 
port of Christian faith [tutto il credibile cristiano], which takes its start from 
the fact that the first people of the world were the Hebrews, whose prince was 
Adam, created by the true God at the time of the creation of the world. It fol- 
lows that the first science to be learned should be mythology or the interpreta- 
tion of fables; for, as we shall see, all the histories of the gentiles have their be- 
ginnings in fables, which were the first histories of the gentile nations. By such 
a method the beginnings of the sciences as well as of the nations are to be dis- 
covered, for they sprang from the nations and from no other source. It will 
be shown throughout this work that they had their beginnings in the public 
needs or utilities of the peoples and that they were later perfected as acute in- 
dividuals applied their reflection to them. This is the proper starting-point for 
universal history, which all scholars say is defective in its beginnings. 

52 In this undertaking we shall be greatly helped by the antiquity of 
the Egyptians, for they have preserved for us two great fragments not less 
marvelous than their pyramids, namely these two great philological verities. 
The first is narrated by Herodotus: that the Egyptians reduced all the preced- 
ing time of the world to three ages, the first that of the gods, the second that 
of the heroes, the third that of men. The other (as related in Scheffer's 
De natura et constitutions philosophiae italicae seu pythagoricae) is that, 
with corresponding number and sequence, through all that period three lan- 
guages had been spoken: the first hieroglyphic, with sacred characters; the 
second symbolic, with heroic characters; the third epistolary, with characters 
agreed on by the people. This division of time was not followed by Marcus 
Terentius Varro; we must not say because he did not know of it, for, with his 
boundless erudition, he deserved the honor bestowed on him in the title "most 
learned of the Romans" in their most enlightened period, the age of Cicero; but 
rather because he did not choose to; perhaps because he applied [only] to 
Roman history what by our principles will be found true of all the ancient na- 
tions, namely that all Roman things, divine and human, were native to Latium. 
He therefore studied to give them all Latin origins in his great work on things 
divine and human [Antiquitates], of which the injustice of time has deprived 
us (yet Varro believed in the legendary bringing of the law of the Twelve 
Tables from Athens to Rome!). He divided the times of the world into three: 
a dark age, corresponding to the Egyptian age of the gods; a fabulous age, cor- 
responding to their age of the heroes; and a historic age, corresponding to their 
age of men. 

53 Furthermore the antiquity of the Egyptians will help us with two pre- 
tentious memories, examples of that national self-conceit by which, as Diodorus 
Siculus observed, every nation barbarian or civilized has considered itself to be 
the oldest and to have preserved its records from the beginning of the world; a 
privilege, as we shall see, of the Hebrews alone. These two pretentious 


memories we have observed to be, first, the legend that their Jove Ammon was 
the oldest of all the Joves in the world, and second, that the Herculeses of all 
the other nations had taken their name from the Egyptian Hercules. That is, 
that all nations had passed first through the age of gods, the king of whom was 
by all these nations held to be Jove; and then through the age of heroes, who 
were considered sons of the gods, and of whom Hercules was believed to be 
the greatest. 


[The Hebrews] 

54 The first column is dedicated to the Hebrews, who, on the most re- 
liable authority of Flavius Josephus, the Jew, and Lactantius Firmianus, to be 
cited later, lived unknown to all the gentile nations. And yet they reckoned 
rightly the account of the times passed through by the world, now accepted as 
true by the severest critics, according to the calculation of Philo the Jew. If 
his estimate varies from that of Eusebius, the deviation is one of a mere fifteen 
hundred years, which is a very short period of time compared with the varia- 
tions among the calculations made by the Chaldeans, Scythians, Egyptians, 
and in our own day by the Chinese. And this should be an invincible proof that 
the Hebrews were the first people in our world and that in the sacred history 
they have accurately preserved their memories from the very beginning of the 


[The Chaldeans] 

55 The second column is devoted to the Chaldeans, both because in 
geography it is clear that the most inland monarchy of all the habitable world 
must have been in Assyria, and because in this work it is shown that the inland 
nations were populated first, and then the maritime nations. And certainly 
the Chaldeans were the first gentile sages, and the common opinion of philo- 
logians regards Zoroaster the Chaldean as their prince. And without question 
universal history takes its beginning from the monarchy of the Assyrians, which 
must have begun to take shape among the Chaldean people; from whom, when 
it had grown to great size, it must have passed to the nation of the Assyrians 
under Ninus, who must have founded that monarchy not with people brought 
in from outside but with those born within Chaldea itself, whereupon he did 
away with the Chaldean name and brought forward the Assyrian in its stead. It 
must have been the plebeians of that nation through whose support Ninus made 
himself king. It will be shown in this work that such was the political custom 
in almost all nations, as we know certainly it was of the Roman. Now the same 
[universal] history tells us that Zoroaster was slain by Ninus. We shall see that 
this was said, in heroic language, in the sense that the kingdom of the Chal- 
deans which had been aristocratic (and of which Zoroaster had been the heroic 
character) was overthrown by means of the popular liberty of the plebeians of 


that people. We shall see that in heroic times these plebeians were a different 
nation from the nobles, and that with the aid of this nation Ninus established 
himself as monarch. Otherwise, if things are not as we have stated them, this 
monster of chronology would emerge in Assyrian history: that within the life- 
time of one man, Zoroaster, Chaldea had grown from [a land of] lawless vaga- 
bonds to such greatness of empire that Ninus was able to found on it a mighty 
monarchy. For lack of these principles, Ninus, taken as the initiator of universal 
history, has hitherto made the monarchy of Assyria seem to have been born 
all at once, as a frog is born in a summer shower. 


[The Scythians] 

56 The third column is set up for the Scythians, who surpassed the 
Egyptians in antiquity, as we learned not far back [48] from a vulgar tradi- 


[The Phoenicians] 

57 The fourth column is assigned to the Phoenicians rather than to the 
Egyptians, to whom the Phoenicians brought from the Chaldeans the use of 
the quadrant and the knowledge of the elevation of the pole. Of so much there 
is a vulgar tradition. We shall show later that they brought also vulgar 
[alphabetic] characters. 


[The Egyptians] 

58 For all the reasons discussed above, the Egyptians, to whom Marsham 
in his Canon accords the distinction of being the most ancient of all the na- 
tions, merit the fifth place in our Chronological Table. 


[Zoroaster, or the kingdom of the Chaldeans. Year of the world 1756.] 

59 Zoroaster is shown in this work to have been a poetic character of 
founders of peoples in the East. There are as many of these founders scattered 
through that great part of the world as there are Herculeses scattered through 
the opposite part, the West. And perhaps the Herculeses whom Varro observed 
to exist in the likeness of the western ones even in Asia, such as the Tyrian o r 
Phoenician, must have been considered by the easterners as so many Zoroasters. 
But the vanity of scholars, who will have it that whatever they know is as an- 
cient as the world, has made of them one individual man brimming with the 
highest esoteric wisdom, and has attached to him the oracles of philosophy, 
which do nothing but palm off as ancient a very modern doctrine, namely that 
of the Pythagoreans and the Platonists. But this vanity of the scholars did not 
stop here, for it swelled even further by deriving from him the scholastic sue- 


cession among the nations. According to them, Zoroaster taught Berosus for 
Chaldea; Berosus, Hermes Trismegistus for Egypt; Hermes Trismegistus, Atlas 
for Ethiopia; Atlas, Orpheus for Thrace; and finally Orpheus founded his school 
in Greece. But we shall see shortly how [far from] easy these long journeys were 
for the ancient nations, who, because of their recent savage origin, lived every- 
where unknown even to their nearest neighbors, and came to know each other 
only by occasion of war or by reason of trade. 

60 But concerning the Chaldeans the philologians themselves, confused 
by the various vulgar traditions which they have themselves collected, do not 
know whether they were individual men or entire families or a whole people 
or nation. All these doubts will be resolved by the following principles. They 
were first individuals, then entire families, later a whole people and finally a 
great nation on which the monarchy of Assyria was founded. Their wisdom was 
at first in vulgar divinity, by means of which they divined the future from the 
path of falling stars at night, and then in judicial astrology. Thus among the 
Latins a judicial astrologer was still called a Chaldean. 


[lapetus, from whom spring the giants. Year of the world 1856.] 

61 Giants, as we shall show by physical histories found in the Greek 
fables and by proofs both physical and moral drawn from civil histories, existed 
in nature among all the first gentile nations. 


[Nimrod, or the confusion of tongues. Year of the world 1856.] 

62 The confusion of tongues came about in a miraculous way so that 
on the instant many different languages were formed. The Fathers will have it 
that through this confusion of tongues the purity of the sacred antediluvian lan- 
guage was gradually lost. This should be understood as referring to the lan- 
guages of the Eastern peoples among whom Shem propagated the human race. 
It must have been otherwise in the case of the nations of all the rest of the 
world; for the races of Ham and Japheth were destined to be scattered through 
the great forest of this earth in a savage migration of two hundred years. Wan- 
dering and alone, they were to bring forth their children, with a savage educa- 
tion, destitute of any human custom and deprived of any human speech, and 
so in a state of wild animals. It was necessary that just so much time should pass 
before the earth, having at last dried off from the wetness of the universal flood, 
could send off dry exhalations of the sort wherein lightning could be generated, 
which stunned and terrified men into abandoning themselves to the false re- 
ligions of so many Joves that Varro was able to count forty of them, and the 
Egyptians claimed their Jove Ammon to be the oldest of all. They turned to a 
kind of divination which consisted in divining the future from the thunder and 
lightning and from the flights of eagles which they held to be birds of Jove. 
But among the Easterners there was born a more refined divination from the 


observation of the movements of the planets and the aspects of the stars. Thus 
Zoroaster is honored as the first wise man among the gentiles. Bochart gives him 
the title "contemplator of the stars." Just as the first vulgar wisdom was born 
among the Easterners, so also among them arose the first monarchy, that of As- 

63 This chain of reasoning disposes of all those recent etymologists who 
attempt to trace all the languages of the world back to the origins of the 
eastern tongues. The fact is that all the nations sprung from rlam and Japheth 
first developed their native languages inland, and [only] then, having de- 
scended to the sea, began to deal with the Phoenicians, who were famous for 
navigation and colonies along the shores of the Mediterranean and of the Ocean. 
We have shown in the first edition of our New Science that this is true of the 
origins of the Latin language and that, by analogy with the Latin, it must hold 
for all the others as well. 


[One of these giants, Prometheus, steals fire from the sun. Year of the world 1856.] 

64 From this fable we perceive that Heaven reigned on earth, when it 
was believed to be no higher than the mountain tops, according to the vulgar 
tradition that also tells that it left great and numerous benefits to the human 



65 In those times Themis, or divine justice, had a temple on Mount 
Parnassus, and she judged on earth the affairs of mortals. 

[Hermes Trismegistus the elder, or the Egyptian age of the gods.] 

66 This is the Hermes who, on the authority of Cicero, On the Nature 
of the Gods, was called by the Egyptians [Thoth or] Theuth (from which the 
Greeks are said to have derived theos), and who brought the Egyptians letters 
and laws. They in turn (according to Marsham) taught them to the other na- 
tions of the world. But the Greeks did not write their laws with hieroglyphs but 
with vulgar letters, which up to now Cadmus has commonly been thought to 
have brought to them from Phoenicia, though, as we shall see, they made no use 
of them for seven hundred years and more thereafter. For within this period 
there came Homer, who in none of his poems so much as mentions nomos 
(as Feith observed in his Antiquitates homericae), and who left his poems to 
the memory of his rhapsodes because in his time vulgar letters had not yet been 
discovered, as Flavius Josephus the Jew resolutely maintains against Apion, the 
Greek grammarian. Moreover, after Homer, Greek letters turned out so dif- 
ferent from Phoenician! 

67 But these are minor difficulties by comparison with the following: 


how can there be nations already founded and yet without laws? and how 
within Egypt itself, before this Hermes, had the dynasties been founded? As if 
letters were essential to laws, and as if the laws of Sparta were thus not laws, 
where a law of Lycurgus himself forbade the knowledge of letters! As if the 
following order were impossible in civil nature: to devise laws orally and orally 
to publish them' As if we did not in fact find in Homer two sorts of assembly: 
one, called the bottle, secret, where the heroes met to consult by word of mouth 
about the laws; and another called the agora, public, in which, also by word of 
mouth, the laws were published! And as if, finally, providence had not made 
provision for this human necessity: so that, lacking letters, all nations in their 
barbarian period were first founded on customs, and [only] later, having be- 
come civilized, were governed by [statutory] laws! Just as in the second bar- 
barian period the first laws of the new nations of Europe were born in cus- 
toms, of which the feudal are the most ancient. This should be remembered 
because of what we shall have to say later: that fiefs were the first origins of all 
the laws that grew up later among all nations both ancient and modern, and 
hence the natural law of nations was established not with [statutory] laws but 
with these same human customs. 

68 Now as to what touches on that great theme of the Christian religion 
that Moses did not learn from the Egyptians the sublime theology of the He- 
brews there seems to be one great obstacle, chronology, which places Moses 
after Hermes Trismegistus. But this difficulty, besides being met by the reasons 
set forth above, is completely overcome by means of the principles expressed 
in a really golden passage of lamblichus, DC my sterns aegyptiorum, where he 
says that the Egyptians ascribed to this same Hermes all they discovered that was 
necessary or useful to human civil life. He must therefore have been, not an 
individual man rich in esoteric wisdom who was subsequently made a god, 
but a poetic character of the first men of Egypt who were wise in vulgar wis- 
dom and who founded there first the families and then the peoples that finally 
went to make up this great nation. From this same passage just cited from 
lamblichus it follows that, if the Egyptian division stands of the three ages of 
gods, heroes and men, and their Trismegistus was a god, then the life of this 
Hermes must embrace the entire Egyptian age of the gods. 


[The golden age, or the Greek age of the gods] 

69 Legendary history acquaints us with one of the peculiarities of this 
age, namely that the gods associated with men on earth. To give certainty to 
the principles of chronology, we shall consider in this work a natural theogony 
or generation of the gods, formed naturally in the imaginations of the Greeks 
on certain occasions of human need or utility, in which they felt they had re- 
ceived help or comfort in the early childhood of the world, when it was over- 
whelmed by most frightful religions. For whatever men saw or imagined, or 


even did themselves, they took to be divinity. Now by making twelve short 
epochs of the twelve famous gentile gods who were called greater, that is the 
gods consecrated by men in the time of the families, a rational chronology of 
poetic history leads us to assign to the age of the gods a duration of nine hun- 
dred years. This gives us the beginnings of universal profane history. 


[Hellen son of Deucalion, grandson of Prometheus, great grandson of lapetus through his 
three sons, spreads three dialects in Greece. Year of the world 2082.] 

70 From this Hellen the native Greeks were called Hellenes; but the 
Greeks of Italy were called Graii and their land Graikia, whence they were 
called Graeci by the Latins. So well did the Greeks of Italy know the name of 
the mother country beyond the sea, whence they had come as colonists into 
Italy! For no such word as Graikia is found in any Greek writer, as Jacques Le 
Paulmier observes in his Graeclae antiquae descriptio. 


[Cecrops the Egyptian brings twelve colonies into Attica, of which Theseus later makes up 

71 When Strabo judges on the contrary that Attica, because of its rocky 
soil, could not attract foreigners to come and live there, he does so in order to 
support the further assertion that the Attic dialect is one of the first among the 
native dialects of Greece. 


[Cadmus the Phoenician founds Thebes in Boeotia and introduces vulgar letters into Greece. 
Year of the world 2491.] 

72 Since he introduced the Phoenician alphabet there, Boeotia should 
have been from its literate beginnings the most ingenious of all the nations of 
Greece; but it produced men of such doltish minds that "Boeotian" became a 
proverbial term for a man of slow wit. 


[Saturn, or the Latin age of the gods. Year of the world 2491.] 

73 This is the age of the gods beginning among the nations of Latium 
and corresponding in character to the golden age of the Greeks, among whom 
our [science of] mythology will show that the first gold was grain, by the har- 
vests of which for many centuries the first nations counted their years. Saturn 
was so called by the Latins from sati, "sown" [fields], and is called Chronos by 
the Greeks, among whom chronos means "time," whence comes the word 


[Hermes Trismegistus the younger, or the Egyptian age of the heroes. Year of the world 2553.] 

74 This Hermes the younger must be a poetic character of the age of 
the heroes in Egypt. This age in Greece comes only after an age of the gods 


lasting nine hundred years; but among the Egyptians the age of the gods lasts 
only through the time of a father, son and grandson. Corresponding to this 
anachronism in Egyptian history we have already noticed a similar one in As- 
syrian history, the case of Zoroaster. 


[Danaus the Egyptian drives the Inachids out of the kingdom of Argos. Year of the world 2553.] 

75 These royal successions are great canons of chronology: thus Danaus 
occupies the kingdom of Argos, which had previously been ruled by nine kings 
of the house of Inachus, during whose time there must have passed three hun- 
dred years (according to the rule of the chronologers), as there must have 
passed nearly five hundred years during the time of the fourteen Latin kings 
who reigned in Alba. 

76 But Thucydides says that in heroic times the kings drove one another 
off the throne almost daily; as Amulius drives Numitor from the kingdom of 
Alba and Romulus then dethrones Amulius and restores Numitor. This came 
about through the savagery of those times, and also because the heroic cities 
were without walls, nor were fortresses then in use. We shall see later that this 
was true also of the second barbarian period. 


[The Herachds, spread abroad through Greece, bring in the age of the heroes there. Curetes 
in Crete, in Saturnia or Italy, and in Asia, bring in the kingdoms of priests. Year of the world 

77 These two great fragments of antiquity, as Denis Petau observes, fall 
in Greek history before the heroic age of the Greeks. The Heraclids or sons of 
Hercules are scattered abroad through Greece more than a hundred years be- 
fore the coming of Hercules their father, whereas, in order to propagate so 
many descendants, he would have had to be born many centuries earlier. 


[Dido of Tyre goes to found Carthage.] 

78 We place her at the end of the heroic age of the Phoenicians, and thus 
[conceive her to have been] driven out of Tyre because she had been con- 
quered in a heroic contest, as she professes to have left the city on account 
of the hatred of her brother-in-law. This multitude of Tyrian men was called 
in heroic diction a woman because it was made up of the weak and vanquished. 


[Orpheus, and with him the age of the theological poets.] 

79 This Orpheus, who reduces the wild beasts of Greece to humanity, 
is evidently a vast den of a thousand monsters. He comes from Thrace, a coun- 
try of fierce warriors [Marti, Marses], not of humane philosophers, for the 
Thracians were through all later time so barbarous that Androtion the philos- 


opher removed Orpheus from the number of sages simply because he had been 
born in Thrace. And [yet] in her beginnings he came forth so skilled in the 
Greek language that he composed in it verses of marvellous poetry, with which 
he tamed the barbarians through their ears; for though already organized in 
nations they were not restrained by their eyes from setting fire to cities full of 
marvels. And he finds the Greeks still wild beasts [though] Deucalion a thou- 
sand years before had taught them piety by his reverence and fear of divine 
justice. On Mount Parnassus, in front of the temple raised to divine justice 
(which was later the dwelling of the Muses and Apollo, the god and the arts of 
humanity), Deucalion with Pyrrha his wife, both with veiled heads (that is, 
with the modesty of human cohabitation, meaning marriage), seize the stones 
that lie before their feet (that is, the stupid brutes of the former savage times) 
and make them into men by throwing them over their shoulders, (that is, by 
the discipline of household economy in the state of the families). Hellen too, 
seven hundred years before, had brought [the Greeks] together by means of 
language and had sown the three dialects among them by means of his three 
sons. And the house of Inachus could show that it had founded its kingdoms 
three centuries before and had continued the royal successions through that 
period. Finally comes Orpheus to teach the Greeks humanity; and, from the 
savage condition in which he finds it, he brings Greece into such splendor as a 
nation that he is a companion of Jason on the naval enterprise of the Golden 
Fleece (naval enterprises and navigation being the last discoveries of peoples), 
and he is accompanied on this expedition by Castor and Pollux, the brothers of 
Helen, for whose sake the famous Trojan war was fought. So, in the life of 
one man, so many civil things [are] accomplished, for which the extent of a 
thousand years would hardly suffice! Such a monstrosity of Greek chronology 
in the person of Orpheus is like the other two we have observed above: one 
in Assyrian history in the person of Zoroaster, and another in Egyptian history 
in the two Hermeses. It was perhaps because of all this that Cicero in his On 
the Nature of the Gods suspected that such a person as Orpheus never existed 
in the world. 

80 To these great chronological difficulties may be added others no less 
serious of a moral and political nature. For Orpheus then founds the humanity 
of Greece on the examples of an adulterous Jove, a Juno who is the mortal 
enemy of the virtues of the Herculeses, a chaste Diana who solicits the sleeping 
Endymions at night, an Apollo who gives oracular responses and pursues to the 
point of death modest maiden Daphnes, a Mars who, as if it were not enough 
for the gods to commit adultery on earth, carries it even into the sea with Venus. 
Nor is this unrestrained licentiousness of the gods satisfied by forbidden inter- 
course with women: Jove burns with wicked love for Ganymede; indeed this 
lust reaches the point of bestiality and Jove, transformed irco a swan, lies with 
Leda. This licentiousness, practiced on men and beasts, was precisely the in- 


famous evil of the outlaw world. Many of the gods and goddesses in heaven do 
not contract matrimony at all. One marriage there is, that of Jove and Juno, 
and it is sterile; and not only sterile but full of atrocious wrangling. Jove indeed 
fixes in the air his chaste and jealous wife and he himself gives birth to Minerva, 
who springs from his head. And finally Saturn, if he begets children, devours 
them. Such examples, powerful divine examples as they are (though such 
fables may contain all the recondite wisdom desired by Plato and in our time 
by Bacon of Verulam in his Wisdom of the Ancients [De sapientia veterum\), 
if taken at face value would corrupt the most civilized peoples and would incite 
them to become as bestial as the very beasts of Orpheus; so apt and efficacious 
they are to transform men from the state of beasts to that of humanity! In view 
of these things it is a very slight reproof that Saint Augustine makes of the 
gods of the gentiles in his City of God, apropos of the scene in the Eunuch of 
Terence in which Chaerea, tempted by a painting of Jove lying with Danae in 
a shower of gold, summons up the hardihood, which he had lacked, to violate 
the slave girl with whom he was so madly and violently in love. 

81 But these treacherous reefs of mythology will be avoided by the prin- 
ciples of this Science, which will show that such fables in their beginnings were 
all true and severe and worthy of the founders of nations, and only later (when 
the long passage of years had obscured their meanings, and customs had 
changed from austere to dissolute, and because men to console their consciences 
wanted to sin with the authority of the gods) came to have the obscene mean- 
ings with which they have come down to us. As for the rough chronological 
tempests, they will be cleared up for us by the discovery of poetic characters, 
one of whom was Orpheus, considered as a poet theologian, who through the 
fables, in their first meaning, first founded and then confirmed the humanity 
of Greece. This character stood out more clearly than ever in the heroic con- 
tests with the plebeians of the Greek cities. That was the age in which the poet 
theologians distinguished themselves, as for example Orpheus himself, Linus, 
Musaeus, and Amphion. The last of these, with self-moving stones (i.e. the 
doltish plebeians) erected the walls of Thebes, which Cadmus had founded three 
hundred years before; just as Appius, grandson of the decemvir, about as long 
after the foundation of Rome, fortifies the heroic state for the Romans by sing- 
ing to the plebs the strength of the gods in the auspices, the knowledge of which 
was held by the patricians. From such heroic contests the heroic age got its 


[Hercules, with whom the heroic time of Greece reaches its climax] 

82 The same difficulties recur for Hercules if we take him for a real 
man, the companion of Jason in the expedition to Colchis, and not, as we shall 
find him to be in respect of his labors, a heroic character of the founder of 



[Sancuniates writes histories in vulgar letters. Year of the world 2800.] 

83 Called also Sanchuniathon and entitled "the historian of truth" (on 
the authority of Clement of Alexandria in his Stromata). He wrote the history 
of Phoenicia in vulgar characters, while the Egyptians and the Scythians, as 
we have seen, wrote in hieroglyphs, as the Chinese have been found to do down 
to our own days. The latter, like the Scythians and the Egyptians, boasted a 
monstrous antiquity because in the darkness of their isolation, having no deal- 
ings with other nations, they had no true idea of time. And Sancuniates wrote 
in vulgar Phoenician characters at a time when vulgar letters had not yet come 
into use among the Greeks, as we have said above. 


[Trojan war. Year of the world 2820.] 

84 This war, as it is recounted by Homer, is thought by circumspect 
critics never to have taken place; and authors like Dictys of Crete and Dares of 
Phrygia, who as historians of their time gave prose accounts of it, are by these 
same critics relegated to the library of impostur. 


[Sesostris reigns in Thebes. Year of the world 2949.] 

85 This king brought under his empire the three other dynasties of 
Egypt, and is evidently the king Ramses of whom the Egyptian priest tells 
Germanicus in Tacitus. 


[Greek colonies in Asia, in Sicily, in Italy. Year of the world 2949.] 

86 This is one of the very few things in which we do not follow the 
authority of chronology. Constrained by an overpowering reason, we put the 
colonies brought by the Greeks into Italy and Sicily about a hundred years after 
the Trojan War, and thus three hundred years before the time at which the 
chronologists place them; that is, about the time where the chronologists place 
the wanderings of the heroes such as Menelaus, Aeneas, Antenor, Diomed and 
Ulysses. Nor should this cause surprise when they [the chronologists] them- 
selves vary as much as four hundred and sixty years in dating Homer, the author 
nearest to these affairs of the Greeks. [Our reason is that] in magnificence and 
delicacy Syracuse at the time of the Punic wars had nothing to envy Athens 
itself, and luxury and splendor of customs reach the islands later than the 
continents. The Croton of Livy's time calls forth his compassion because of its 
small number of inhabitants, when it had once had a population of several 



[Olympic games, first founded by Hercules, then suspended, and restored by Isiphilus. Year 
of the world 3223.] 

87 Since it is found that the years were numbered by Hercules from 
harvest to harvest, but from Isiphilus [i.e. Iphitus] on by the course of the sun 
through the signs of the zodiac, exact chronology among the Greeks begins with 


[Founding of Rome. Year of Rome i.] 

88 But just as the clouds are dispersed by the sun, so all the magnificent 
opinions that have been held up to now concerning the beginnings of Rome and 
of all the other cities that have been capitals of famous nations, are dispersed by 
this golden passage of Varro (quoted by St. Augustine in his City of God): that 
Rome under the kings, who reigned there for two hundred and fifty years, sub- 
dued more than twenty peoples and did not extend her empire more than 
twenty miles. 


[Homer, who came at a time when vulgar letters had not yet been invented, and who never 
saw Egypt. Year of the world 3290, of Rome 35.] 

89 Regarding this first light of Greece we have been left in the dark by 
Greek history in both its chief aspects, geography and chronology, for nothing 
certain has come down to us regarding either his fatherland or the age in which 
he lived. In our third book we shall find him quite different from what he has 
been thought up to now. But, whoever he was, he certainly never saw Egypt; 
for he says in the Odyssey that the island on which there now stands the pharos 
of Alexandria was as far from the mainland as an unloaded boat with a north 
wind in the poop could sail in an entire day. Nor did he see Phoenicia; for he 
says that the island of Calypso, Ogygia, was so far away that Mercury, a god 
and a winged god could get there only with great difficulty, as if it were as 
far from Greece (where the gods reside on Mt. Olympus, as he himself sings in 
the Iliad) as America is from our world. So, if the Greeks in the times of Homer 
had had dealings with Egypt and Phoenicia, he would have lost credit in both 
his poems. 


[Psammeticus opens Egypt, but only to the Ionian and Carian Greeks. Year of the world 3334.] 

90 It is from the time of Psammeticus that Herodotus begins to relate 
better ascertained facts about the Egyptians. This confirms our opinion that 
Homer did not see Egypt; and the various items of information that he nar- 
rates about Egypt and other countries of the world are either things and deeds 
that took place within Greece, as we shall show in our [section on] Poetic 
Geography, or they are traditions, altered by the passage of a long time, of the 


Phoenicians, Egyptians and Phrygians who had colonized among the Greeks; 
or they are tales of Phoenician travelers who traded on Greek shores long be- 
fore the time of Homer. 


[Aesop, vulgar moral philosopher. Year of the world 3334.] 

91 In the [section on] Poetic Logic it will be found that Aesop was not 
an individual man in nature, but an imaginative type or poetic character of the 
socii or famuli of the heroes, who certainly came before the Seven Sages of 


[Seven Sages of Greece: of whom one, Solon, ordains popular liberty in Athens; another, 
Thales the Milesian, gives a beginning to philosophy with physics. Year of the world 3406.] 

92 Thales began with too simple a principle: water; perhaps because he 
had seen gourds grow on water. 


[Pythagoras, of whom, according to Livy, not so much as the name can have been known at 
Rome during his lifetime. Year of the world 3468, of Rome 225.] 

93 Livy puts him in the time of Servius Tullius (so firmly did he be- 
lieve that Pythagoras had been the teacher of Numa in divinity!); and in these 
very times of Servius Tullius, almost two hundred years after Numa, he says 
that it was impossible, because of the barbarous character of inland Italy in that 
era, not merely for Pythagoras himself but even for his name to reach Rome 
from Croton, passing through so many peoples of varying languages and cus- 
toms. It may thence be inferred how quick and easy were the really long 
journeys of Pythagoras to visit the disciples of Orpheus in Thrace, the mages 
in Persia, the Chaldeans in Babylonia, the gymnosophists in India; then, on 
his return, the priests of Egypt and, after crossing Africa at its widest, the 
disciples of Atlas in Mauritania; then, crossing the sea, the Druids in Gaul! 
Thence he is supposed to have returned to his fatherland, rich in what van 
Heurn calls barbarian wisdom from those barbarous nations to which, long 
years before, Hercules the Theban, slaying monsters and tyrants, had gone on 
his civilizing mission about the world; nations to whom the Greeks bragged, a 
long time after, that they had taught culture, but not to such profit that they 
did not remain barbarous. So sound and weighty is the succession of the schools 
of barbarian philosophy related by the aforesaid van Heurn, which the vanity 
of scholars has so much applauded! 

94 Need we go so far as to appeal here to the authority of Lactantius, 
who firmly denies thatTythagoras was the disciple of Isaiah? This authority is 
strongly supported by a passage in the Jewish Antiquities [XII, 2, 14] of Joscphus 
the Jew, which proves that the Hebrews in the times of Ho.ner and Pythagoras 
lived unknown to their nearest inland neighbors, to say nothing of remote na- 
tions overseas. For when Ptolemy Philadelphus expressed surprise that no poet 


or historian had ever made any mention of the Mosaic laws, Demetrius the Jew 
answered that some who had attempted to tell the gentiles about them had 
been miraculously punished by God; Theopompus for example had lost his 
mind and Theodectes his sight. Josephus himself [Against Apion I, 12] freely 
admits their obscurity and gives these reasons for it: "We do not live," he says, 
"on the seashore, nor do we delight in trading or in having dealings with 
foreigners for the sake of trade." Lactantius reflects that this custom was a 
counsel of divine providence, so that the religion of the true God might not be 
profaned by trafficking with gentiles. In this opinion Lactantius is followed by 
Peter van der Kuhn in his De republica hebraeorum. It is all confirmed by pub- 
lic confession of the Hebrews themselves, who, in expiation of the Septuagint, 
held a solemn fast each year on the eighth day of Tebet, which is our Decem- 
ber; because when it was finished there were three days of darkness over all 
the world, according to the rabbinical books referred to by Casaubon (Exercha- 
t tones in Baronium), Buxtorf (Synagoga iudaica) and Hottinger (Thesaurus 
philohgicus). And because the Grecizing Jews called Hellenists, among them 
Aristeas, who is said to have been in charge of it, claimed divine authority for 
this translation, the Jews of Jerusalem mortally hated them. 

95 But by the nature of these civil things [it is to be considered impos- 
sible] that over confines [such as those] whose trespass was forbidden even by 
the highly civilized Egyptians (who were so inhospitable to the Greeks that 
even a long time after they had opened Egypt to them it was forbidden to use 
a Greek pot, spit, or knife, or even [to eat] meat cut by a Greek knife), over 
harsh and forbidding paths, without any language in common, and among 
the Hebrews of whom it was proverbially said by the gentiles that they would 
not so much as point out a fountain to a thirsty foreigner, the prophets should 
have profaned their sacred doctrine by making it accessible to foreigners, new 
men unknown to them; for in all nations of the world the priests kept such 
doctrine secret even from their own plebs, whence indeed it was everywhere 
called "sacred 5 * doctrine, for sacred is as much as to say "secret." And from this 
there emerges a most luminous proof of the truth of the Christian religion: that 
Pythagoras and Plato, by grace of a most sublime human science, had exalted 
themselves to some extent to the knowledge of the divine truths which the 
Hebrews had been taught by the true God; and on the other hand there arises 
a weighty confutation of the errors of recent mythologists, who believe that 
the fables are sacred stories corrupted by the gentile nations and especially by 
the Greeks. And although the Egyptians had dealings with the Hebrews in 
their captivity, yet, by a custom common to primitive peoples, as we shall show 
later, namely that of holding the conquered to be men without gods, they 
rather mocked than heeded the Hebrew religion and history. Often, as the 
sacred book of Genesis narrates, they scornfully asked the Hebrews why the 
God they adored did not come to liberate them from their hands. 



[Servius Tullius king. Year of the world 3468, of Rome 225,] 

96 By a common error it has hitherto been believed that this king set 
up the census in Rome as a basis of popular liberty, whereas we shall see [619 ff.] 
that the census was a basis of patrician liberty. And this error is in accord with 
that other one according to which it has been believed up to now that, in those 
times in which the sick debtor had to appear on an ass or in a cart before the 
praetor, Tarquinius Priscus ordained the insignia, togas, devices, and chairs of 
ivory (made of the tusks of elephants, which, because the Romans had first seen 
them in Lucania in the war with Pyrrhus, they called "Lucanian oxen") and 
finally the triumphal golden chariot, in which splendid equipage the Roman 
majesty shone brightest in the times of the popular commonwealth. 


[Hesiod. Year of the world 3500.] 

97 By the proofs we shall advance concerning the time when vulgar 
writing was introduced among the Greeks, we put Hesiod about the time of 
Herodotus or a little before. The chronologists with too much boldness put 
him thirty years before Homer, on whose period the authorities vary by as 
much as 460 years. Besides, Porphyry (according to Suidas) and Velleius Pater- 
culus state that Homer preceded Hesiod by a great length of time. As for the 
tripod that Hesiod consecrated to Apollo on Helicon, with the inscription that 
he had surpassed Homer in song, although Varro accepts it (according to Aulus 
Gellius), it is to be kept in the museum of imposture, for it is a hoax similar 
to those perpetrated in our day by the falsifiers of medals who seek by such 
deceit to reap a rich profit. 


[Herodotus, Hippocrates. Year of the world 3500.] 

98 Hippocrates is placed by the chronologists in the time of the Seven 
Sages of Greece. But, partly because his life is too much tinged with fable (he 
is said to be the son of Aesculapius and grandson of Apollo), and partly be- 
cause he is known to be the author of works written in prose with vulgar char- 
acters, he is here placed near the time of Herodotus, who likewise wrote prose 
with vulgar characters and wove his history almost entirely out of fables. 


[Idanthyrsus king of Scythia. Year of the world 3530.] 

99 This king answered Darius the Great, who had threatened to make 
war on him, with five real words (which, as we shall later show, the first peo- 
ples must have used before they came to vocal words and finally to written ones). 
These real words were a frog, a mouse, a bird, a ploughshare, and a bow for 
shooting arrows. Further on we shall show the natural and proper meaning of 


these objects. It would be tedious to report what St. Cyril of Alexandria re- 
lates of the council that Darius held to discuss the meaning of this reply, for 
the interpretations his counselors put upon it are obviously ridiculous. And this 
Idanthyrsus was the king of those Scythians who surpassed the Egyptians in 
point of antiquity, and yet at that late epoch did not even know how to write 
with hieroglyphs! Idanthyrsus must have been like one of the Chinese kings 
who, up to a few centuries ago cut off from the rest of the world, vainly boast an 
antiquity greater than that of the world, and, after so long a time, are still found 
writing with hieroglyphs, and, although on account of the great mildness of the 
climate they have most refined talents and make so many marvelously delicate 
things, do not yet know how to make shadows in painting, against which high- 
lights can stand out; whence, since it has neither relief nor depth, their paint- 
ing is most crude. And as for the statuettes of porcelain which come from 
there, they show the Chinese to be just as unskilled as the Egyptians were in cast- 
ing; whence it may be inferred that the Egyptians were as unskilled in painting 
as the Chinese are now. 

100 To these Scythians belongs Anacharsis, author of the Scythian 
oracles, as Zoroaster was of the Chaldean. They must first have been oracles of 
soothsayers, which later, by the vanity of the learned, were turned into oracles 
of philosophers. From the Hyperboreans of Scythia (either this one or another 
born anciently within Greece itself) there came to Greece the two most famous 
oracles of the gentiles, the Delphic and the Dodonian; so Herodotus believed, 
and after him Pindar and Pherenicus, who are followed by Cicero in his On 
the Nature of the Gods. This may explain why Anacharsis was proclaimed a 
famous author of oracles and numbered among the most ancient soothsaying 
gods, as we shall see in the [section on] Poetic Geography. Meanwhile, to show 
how learned Scythia was in esoteric wisdom, let it suffice that the Scythians 
would stick a knife in the ground and adore it as a god, in order to justify the 
killings they were about to perform. From this wild religion emerged all the 
civil and moral virtues narrated by Diodorus Siculus, Justin, Pliny, and lauded 
to the skies by Horace. Thence Abaris [i.e. Anacharsis], wishing to order 
Scythia by the laws of Greece, was killed by Caduidas his brother. Such was his 
profit from the 'barbarian philosophy* of van Heurn that he did not discern by 
himself the laws needed to bring a barbarian people to a humane civilization, 
but had to learn them from the Greeks! For the very same thing is true of the 
Greeks in relation to the Scythians which we have said of them a while ago 
[90] in relation to the Egyptians: that by their vanity in giving to their knowl- 
edge high-sounding origins of foreign antiquity, they truly deserved the reproof 
they represented the Egyptian priest as giving to Solon (as related by Critias in 
the first or second Alcibiades of Plato): namely that the Greeks had always 
been children. And so it must be said that by this vanity the Greeks, in rela- 
tion both to the Scythians and to the Egyptians, lost as much in real merit as 
they gained in vain glory. 



[Peloponnesian war. Thucydides, who writes that up to his father's day the Greeks knew 
nothing of their own antiquities, therefore set himself to write of this war. Year of the world 

101 Thucydides was a young man at the time when Herodotus, who 
might have been his father, was already old. He lived in the most glorious age 
of Greece, which was that of the Peloponnesian war, and since he was a con- 
temporary of this struggle he wrote its history in order to write of true things. 
By him it was said that down to his father's time, which was also that of 
Herodotus, the Greeks knew nothing of their own antiquities. What then 
can we think of the things they wrote of the barbarians? And we know of 
ancient barbarian history only what they tell us. And what must we think o 
the antiquities of the Romans, up to the time of the Carthaginian wars, in view 
of the fact that until then they had been concerned only with agriculture and 
military affairs, when Thucydides establishes this truth about his own Greeks, 
who so promptly came forth as philosophers? Unless, perhaps, we are willing 
to say that the Romans had had some particular privilege from God. 


[Socrates originates rational moral philosophy. Plato flourishes in metaphysics. Athens is re- 
splendent with all the arts of the most cultivated humanity. Law of the Twelve Tables. Year of 
the world 3553, of Rome 303.] 

102 At this time there is brought from Athens to Rome the Law of the 
Twelve Tables, just as crude, inhuman, cruel, uncivilized and monstrous as it 
is shown to be in our Principles of Universal Law. 


[Xenophon, carrying the Greek arms into the heart of Persia, is the first to learn of Persian 
things with any certainty. Year of the world 3583, of Rome 333.] 

103 Thus St. Jerome observes in his Commentary on Daniel. Just as 
the Greeks had begun under Psammeticus to learn something of Egypt by 
way of commerce (so that Herodotus's more reliable information about the 
Egyptians begins with that period), so now, starting from Xenophon, they be- 
gan through the exigencies of war to learn more reliable things about the 
Persians. Even Aristotle, who accompanied Alexander the Great into Persia, 
writes that before that time the Greeks had but told fables about them, as we 
have indicated in this Chronological Table. In this way the Greeks began to 
have some real knowledge of the affairs of other peoples. 


[Publilian Law. Year of the world 3658, of Rome 416.] 

104 This law was put into effect in the 41 6th year of Rome, and con- 
tains a most important point of Roman history, for by this Uw the Roman com- 
monwealth declared its change from an aristocratic to a popular form of gov- 
ernment; whence Publilius Philo, who was its author, was called the "people's 


dictator." This has not been noticed because the language of the law has not 
been properly understood. We shall later make evident that this was the fact. 
Here it will suffice to give a hypothetical idea of it. 

105 This law and the subsequent Petelian Law, which is of equal im- 
portance, remained unknown because of these three words which are not de- 
fined: "people," "kingdom," and "liberty." Because of these words it has been 
commonly but erroneously believed that the Roman people from the time of 
Romulus had been composed of citizens both noble and plebeian, that the Ro- 
man kingdom had been monarchical, and that the liberty set up by Brutus had 
been a popular liberty. And these three words, not properly defined, have led 
into error all the critics, historians, political theorists and jurists, because from 
none of these words could they get a clear idea of the heroic commonwealths, 
which were of a most severely aristocratic form and therefore entirely different 
from those of our time. 

1 06 In an asylum opened in the forest, Romulus founded Rome on the 
clicntships or protectorships under which the fathers of families maintained as 
day laborers in the fields those who had fled to this asylum. These fugitives 
had no privilege of citizenship and thus no share of civil liberty. Since they 
had taken refuge with the fathers to save their lives, the fathers protected their 
natural liberty by setting them separately to the cultivation of their several fields. 
The public domain of the Roman territory must have been made up of these 
fields, just as Romulus constituted the senate from the fathers themselves. 

107 Later, Servius Tullius granted the workers bonitary ownership of 
the fields that were the property of the fathers and imposed the census [tax] 
upon them. They were to do their own cultivating under the burden of the 
census, and with the obligation of serving the fathers in war at their own ex- 
pense; as in fact the plebeians did serve the patricians under what has hitherto 
been mistaken for popular liberty. This law of Servius Tullius was the first 
agrarian law of the world, and it set up the census as the basis of the heroic com- 
monwealths, that is to say of the most ancient aristocracies of all the nations. 

108 Subsequently, Junius Brutus, casting out the Tarquin tyrants, re- 
stored the Roman commonwealth to its original form, and, by setting up the 
consuls, as it were an annual pair of aristocratic kings (as Cicero calls them in 
his Laws) in place of one king for life, reestablished the liberty of the patricians 
as against their tyrants, but not indeed the liberty of the people from the 
patricians. But, since the nobles did not keep faith with the plebeians under 
the agrarian law o Servius Tullius, the plebs brought about the creation of the 
plebeian tribunes and had them accepted under oath by the nobility. The 
tribunes were to protect for the people that degree of natural liberty represented 
by bonitary ownership of the fields. Thus, when the plebeians were wanting to 
secure civil ownership from the nobles, the plebeian tribunes drove from Rome 
Marcius Coriolanus because he had said that the plebeians should go and till the 
soil; that is, since they were not content with the agrarian law of Servius but 


wanted a fuller and stronger one, they should be reduced again to the day 
laborers they had been under Romulus. For if this be not a true picture of 
things, how [can we explain] the foolish pride of the plebs in disdaining agri- 
culture, since we know that even the patricians deemed it honorable work? 
And would [such] a slight pretext have occasioned such a cruel war? For 
Marcius, to avenge his exile, would have brought about the ruin of Rome had 
it not been for the piteous tears of his mother and his wife which turned him 
aside from his impious enterprise. 

109 In consequence of all this, the nobles proceeding to take back the 
fields from the plebs after they had cultivated them, and the latter having no 
civil action for laying claim to them, the plebeian tribunes now appealed to a 
Law of the Twelve Tables (by which, as is demonstrated in the Principles of 
Universal Law, no other affair but this was settled). By this law the nobles con- 
ceded to the plebs the quiritary ownership of the fields. This civil ownership 
is permitted to foreigners by the natural law of nations. And this was the 
second agrarian law of the ancient nations. 

no Now when the plebeians saw [on the one hand] that they could not 
transmit the fields intestate to their kin, because they had no sui heredes, agnates 
or gentiles (to which relations legitimate succession was then confined), since 
their marriages were not solemnized; and [on the other hand] that they could 
not even dispose of their fields by testament because they did not have the 
rights of citizens; they demanded for themselves the connubium of the nobles, 
that is the right to solemnized marriages (for such is the meaning of con- 
nubium). The most solemn part of the marriage service was the auspices, 
which were the property of the nobles. (These auspices indeed were the great 
source of all Roman law, private and public.) And thus the right of contracting 
marriages was communicated to the plebeians by the fathers. Since marriage is, 
by the definition of the jurisconsult Modestinus, "the sharing of every divine 
and human right" (omnis divini et humani iuris communicatio) , and since 
citizenship itself is naught else, the fathers thereby gave the plebeians the rights 
of citizenship. Then, in the [natural] course of human desires, the plebeians 
secured from the fathers the communication of all those rights of private law 
which depended upon the auspices: as f atria potestas, sui heredes t agnation and 
clan membership, and, in consequence of these rights, the further rights of 
legitimate succession, the making of testaments and guardianship. Then they 
claimed those dependent rights of public law, securing the communication first 
of the imperium by the opening to them of the consulship, and finally of the 
science of the laws, by the opening to them of priesthood and pontificate, 

in In this way the tribunes of the plebs, by pursuing the function for 
which they were created, that of protecting the natural liberty of the plebeians, 
were gradually led to secure for them the whole range of _ivil liberty as well. 
And the census ordered by Servius Tullius with the subsequent provision that 
payment should no longer be made to the nobles privately but to the public 


treasury so that the treasury might supply to the plebeians the expenses of war 
developed naturally from a basis of liberty for the lords into a basis of popular 
liberty. Further on we shall see the way in which this came about. 

112 By a parallel development, these same tribunes progressed in the 
power of making laws. For the Horatian and Hortensian laws could not grant 
to the plebs that their plebiscites should be binding upon all the people except in 
two special emergencies. In the first of these the plebs had retired to the Aven- 
tine in the 304th year of Rome, at which time, as we state here by way of hy- 
pothesis and shall later show as a fact, the plebeians were not yet citizens. In 
the second they retired to the Janiculum in the 3 67th year of Rome, at which 
time the plebs were still struggling with the nobility for the sharing of the 
consulate. But on the basis of the two aforesaid laws, the plebs finally reached 
the point where they could make universal laws [binding on the nobles as well 
as on themselves]. To bring this about required factional movements and re- 
volts at Rome, with the result that it was necessary to make Publilius Philo 
dictator, an office never created save in times of greatest danger to the com- 
monwealth, such as this was. For it had fallen into such great disorder as to 
nourish within itself two supreme legislative powers without any distinction of 
time, scope or territory, with the result that the commonwealth was on the 
point of collapse. Wherefore Philo, to cure the ills of the state, ordained that 
whatever the plebs commanded by plebiscites in the assembly by tribes (comitia 
tributd) "should be binding on all the Quirites" (omncs quirites teneref), i.e. 
should be binding on all the people in the assembly by hundreds (comitia 
centuriata) in which "all the Quirites" (omnes quirites) met. (For the Romans 
called themselves Quirites only in public assembly, and Quiris in the singular 
is never found in common Latin speech.) By this formula Philo meant to signify 
that laws could not be enacted contrary to the plebiscites. The plebs had already 
been made in all respects equal to the nobles by laws to which the latter had 
agreed. By this most recent move, to which the nobles could offer no opposi- 
tion without bringing the commonwealth to ruin, the plebs had become supe- 
rior to the nobles, for without ratification by the senate the plebs could enact 
general laws for all the people. Thus the Roman commonwealth had now 
naturally become free and popular. Philo accordingly proclaimed it such by 
this law, and hence was called the people's dictator. 

113 In conformity" with this change in its nature, he gave the common- 
wealth two ordinances, which are contained in the other two sections of the 
Publilian Law. In the first this dictator ordained that authorization by the 
senate, which had been an authorization by the lords whereby what had first 
been decided by the people "the fathers had afterwards to ratify" (deinde patres 
fierent auc tores) so that the election of the consuls and the enacting of the 
laws, being determined in advance by the people, had been [respectively] pub- 
lic testimonials of merit and public demands of right should thenceforth be 
given by the fathers to the people, who were now sovereign and free, prior to 


the deliberations of the assembly (in incertum comitiorum eventum), as [if they, 
the fathers, were but] the guardians of the people, who were the real lords and 
masters of the Roman imperium. The people, if they wished to enact laws, 
were to do so according to the formula presented to them by the senate. If not, 
they could make use of the ; " sovereign right and "antiquate" the [proposed] 
laws; that is, declare they wanted no innovation. Thus everything the senate 
should henceforth ordain concerning public affairs should be [regarded as] in- 
structions given by it to the people or commissions given to it by the people. 
Finally there remained the census, for, since the treasury had hitherto been 
the property of the nobles, they alone had been created censors of it. Since, 
however, by this law the treasury became the property of the people as a whole, 
Philo ordered in the third place that the censorship, the only magistracy in 
which the plebs had as yet no share, should also be extended to them. 

114 If we read further into the history of Rome in the light of this hypoth- 
esis, we shall find by a thousand proofs that it provides a foundation for all 
the things therein narrated, which have lacked a common foundation and a 
proper and particular connection among themselves because the three aforesaid 
words were undefined; wherefore this hypothesis should be accepted as true. 
However, if properly considered, this is not so much a hypothesis as a truth 
meditated in idea which later will be authoritatively shown to be the fact. And 
granted Livy's generalization that the asylums were "an old counsel of 
founders of cities" (yctus urbes condentium consilium), as Romulus founded 
the city of Rome within the asylum opened in the forest this hypothesis gives 
us also the history of all the other cities of the world in times we have so far 
despaired of knowing. This then is an instance of an ideal eternal history 
(which will later be meditated and discovered) whose course is run in time by 
the histories of all nations. 

[Petelian Law. Year of the world 3661, of Rome 419.] 

115 This second law, called "on slavery for debt" (de nexu), was en- 
acted in the year of Rome 419 (and thus three years after the Publilian law) by 
the consuls Caius Poetelius and Lucius Papirius Mugillanus. It contains another 
most important point in [the study of] Roman affairs, for by this law the 
plebeians were released from the feudal liability of becoming liege vassals of the 
nobles on account of debts, for which the nobles used to compel the plebeians to 
work for them, often for life, in their private prisons. But the senate retained the 
sovereign power it had over the lands of the Roman imperium, though the 
imperium itself had already passed to the people. And under the provisions of 
the senatus consultum which was called "the last," the senate kept this power 
for itself by force of arms as long as the Roman commonwealth remained free. 
Thus whenever the people wanted to dispose of these lands under the agrarian 
laws of the Gracchi, the senate armed the consuls, who proscribed as rebels 


and executed the tribunes of the plebs who had been the authors of these laws. 
This great effect could only be brought about by a system of sovereign fiefs 
subject to a higher sovereignty. This system is confirmed by a passage in one of 
the Catilinarian orations of Cicero where he affirms that Tiberius Gracchus by his 
agrarian law was destroying the form of government of the commonwealth, and 
had hence been rightfully put to death by Publius Scipio Nasica on the ground 
set forth in the formula by which the consul armed the people against the 
authors of the aforesaid law: "Whoever is for the safety of the commonwealth, 
let him follow the consul" (Oui rempublicam salvam velit consulem sequatur). 


[War with Tarentum wherein the Latins and the Greeks begin to know each other. Year of 
the world 3708, of Rome 489.] 

116 The reason for this war was the maltreatment accorded by the 
Tarentines to the Roman ships which landed on their coasts, and likewise to 
the Roman ambassadors. Their excuse, as phrased by Florus, was that "they did 
not know who the Romans were or whence they came" (qui essent aut unde 
venirent ignorabani). So well acquainted were the first peoples, even when they 
were not separated by water and were not far apart by land ! 


[Second Carthaginian war, with which begins the period of Roman history known with some 
certainty by Livy, though he professes to be ignorant of three important circumstances. Year of 
the world 3849, of Rome 552.] 

117 Livy professed to write the history of Rome with more certainty 
from the period of the second Carthaginian war, and promised to describe the 
most memorable of all wars fought by the Romans. And because of its incom- 
parable greatness the chronicles he writes of it should have the greater certainty 
that belongs to things of greater fame. Yet he did not know, and openly admits 
he did not know, three most important circumstances. The first, in whose con- 
sulship Hannibal, after the capture of Saguntum, had started on his march from 
Spain to Italy. The second, over which Alps he had come, the Cottian or the 
Pennine. And the third, what strength he had with him. On this last matter 
there was in the ancient annals such a wide diversity of opinion that some had 
written 6,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry, others 20,000 cavalry and 80,000 in- 


118 It can be seen by our reasoning in these Notes that all that has come 
down to us from the ancient gentile nations for the times covered by this Table 
is most uncertain. So that in all this we have entered as it were into a no man's 
land where the rule of law obtains that "the [first] occupant acquires title" 
(occupanti conceduntur) . For this reason we trust that we shall offend no man's 
right if we often reason differently and at times in direct opposition to the opin- 
ions which have been held up to now concerning the beginnings of the hu- 


manity of the nations. By so doing we shall reduce these beginnings to scientific 
principles, by which the facts of certain history may be assigned their first 
origins, on which they rest and by which they are reconciled. For up to now 
they do not seem to have had any common foundation nor any continuous se- 
quence nor any coherence among themselves. 



119 In order to give form to the materials hereinbefore set in order in 
the Chronological Table, we now propose the following axioms, both philo- 
sophical and philological, including a few reasonable and proper postulates and 
some clarified definitions. And just as the blood does in animate bodies, so will 
these elements course through our Science and animate it in all its reasonings 
about the common nature of nations. 

120 Because of the indefinite nature of the human mind, wherever it is 
lost in ignorance, man makes himself the measure of all things. 

121 This axiom explains those two common human traits, on the one 
hand that rumor grows in its course (jama crcscit eundo)^ on the other that 
rumor is deflated by the presence [of the thing itself] (mlnult praesentia 
famam). In the long course that rumor has run from the beginning of the world 
it has been the perennial source of all the exaggerated opinions which have 
hitherto been held concerning remote antiquities unknown to us, by virtue of 
that property of the human mind noted by Tacitus in his Life of Agricola, where 
he says that everything unknown is taken for something great (omne ignotum 
fro magnifico est). 


122 It is another property of the human mind that whenever men can 
form no idea of distant and unknown things, they judge them by what is 
familiar and at hand. 

123 This axiom points to the inexhaustible source of all the errors about 
the beginnings of humanity that have been adopted by entire nations and by 
all the scholars. For when the former began to take notice of them and the 
latter to investigate them, it was on the basis of their own enlightened, cultivated 
and magnificent times that they judged the origins of humanity, which must 
9vertheless by the nature of things have been small, crude and quite obscure, 


124 Under this head are to be recalled two types of conceit we have men- 
tioned above, one of the nations and the other of the scholars. 


125 As for the conceit of the nations, we have heard that golden saying 
of Diodorus Siculus. Every nation, according to him, whether Greek or bar- 
barian, has had the same conceit that it before all other nations invented the 
comforts of human life and that its remembered history goes back to the very 
beginning of the world. 

126 This axiom disposes at once of the proud claims of the Chaldeans, 
Scythians, Egyptians, Chinese, to have been the first founders of the humanity 
of the ancient world. But Flavius Josephus the Jew purges his nation [of this 
vain boast] by that magnanimous confession that we have heard above: namely, 
that the Hebrews had lived cut off from all the gentiles. And sacred history 
assures us that the world is almost young in contrast to the antiquity with 
which it was credited by the Chaldeans, Scythians, Egyptians, and in our own 
day by the Chinese. This is a great proof of the truth of sacred history. 


127 To this conceit of the nations there may be added that of the scholars, 
who will have it that whatever they know is as old as the world. 

128 This axiom disposes of all the opinions of the scholars concerning 
the matchless wisdom of the ancients. It convicts of fraud the oracles of Zoro- 
aster the Chaldean, of Anacharsis the Scythian, which have not come down to 
us, the Poimander of Hermes Trismegistus, the Orphics (or verses of Orpheus), 
and the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, as all the more discerning critics agree. 
It further condemns as impertinent all the mystic meanings with which the 
Egyptian hieroglyphs are endowed by the scholars, and the philosophical al- 
legories which they have read into the Greek fables. 

129 To be useful to the human race, philosophy must raise and direct 
weak and fallen man, not rend his nature or abandon him in his corruption. 

130 This axiom dismisses from the school of our Science the Stoics who 
seek to mortify the senses and the Epicureans who make them the criterion. 
For both deny providence, the former chaining themselves to fate, the latter 
abandoning themselves to chance. The latter moreover affirm that the human 
soul dies with the body. Both should be called monastic or solitary philosophers. 
On the other hand [this axiom] admits to our school the political philosophers, 
and first of all the Platonists, who agree with all the lawgivers on these three 
main points: that there is divine providence, that human passions should be 
moderated and made into human virtues, and that the human soul is immortal. 
Thus from this axiom are derived the three principles of this Science. 



131 Philosophy considers man as he should be and so can be of service to 
but very few, who wish to live in the Republic of Plato, not to fall back into the 
dregs of Romulus. 


132 Legislation considers man as he is in order to turn him to good uses 
in human society. Out of ferocity, avarice and ambition, the three vices which 
run throughout the human race, it creates the military, merchant and govern- 
ing classes, and thus the strength, riches and wisdom of commonwealths. Out 
of these three great vices, which could certainly destroy all mankind on the face 
of the earth, it makes civil happiness. 

133 This axiom proves that there is divine providence and further that 
it is a divine legislative mind. For out of the passions of men each bent on his 
private advantage, for the sake of which they would live like wild beasts in the 
wilderness, it has made the civil orders by which they may live in human society. 


134 Things do not settle or endure out of their natural order. 

135 In view of the fact that the human race, as far back as memory of 
the world goes, has lived and still lives conformably in society, this axiom alone 
decides the great dispute still waged by the best philosophers and moral the- 
ologians against Carneades the skeptic and Epicurus a dispute to which not 
even Grotius could put an end namely, whether law exists by nature, or 
whether man is naturally sociable, which comes to the same thing. 

136 This same axiom, together with the seventh and its corollary, proves 
that man has free choice, however weak, to make virtues of his passions; but 
that he is aided by God, naturally by divine providence, and supernaturally by 
divine grace. 


137 Men who do not know the truth of things try to reach certainty 
about them, so that, if they cannot satisfy their intellects by science, their wills 
at least may rest on conscience. 


138 Philosophy contemplates reason, whence comes knowledge of the 
true; philology observes the authority of human choice, whence comes con- 
sciousness of the certain. 

139 This axiom by its second part defines as philologians all the gram- 
marians, historians, critics, who have occupied themselves with the study of the 
languages and deeds of peoples: both their domestic affairs, such as customs and 


laws, and their external affairs, such as wars, peaces, alliances, travels and com- 

140 This same axiom shows how the philosophers failed by half in not 
giving certainty to their reasonings by appeal to the authority of the philologians, 
and likewise how the latter failed by half in not taking care to give their au- 
thority the sanction of truth by appeal to the reasoning of the philosophers. If 
they had both done this they would have been more useful to their common- 
wealths and they would have anticipated us in conceiving this Science. 


141 Human choice, by its nature most uncertain, is made certain and de- 
termined by the common sense of men with respect to human needs or utilities, 
which are the two origins of the natural law of nations. 


142 Common sense is judgment without reflection, shared by an entire 
class, an entire people, an entire nation, or the whole human race. 

143 This axiom, with the following definition, will provide a new art 
of criticism concerning the founders of nations, who must have preceded by 
more than a thousand years the writers with whom criticism has so far been 


144 Uniform ideas originating among entire peoples unknown to each 
other must have a common ground of truth. 

145 This axiom is a great principle which establishes the common sense 
of the human race as the criterion taught to the nations by divine providence to 
define what is certain in the natural law of nations. And the nations reach this 
certainty by recognizing the underlying agreements which, despite variations 
of detail, obtain among them all in respect of this law. Thence issues the mental 
dictionary for assigning origins to all the divers articulated languages. By means 
of this dictionary is conceived the ideal eternal history which determines the 
histories in time of all the nations. The axioms proper to this dictionary and to 
this history will shortly be proposed. 

146 This same axiom does away with all the ideas hitherto held con- 
cerning the natural law of nations, which has been thought to have originated 
in one nation and been passed on to others. This error was encouraged by the 
bad example of the Egyptians and Greeks in vainly boasting that they had spread 
civilization throughout the world. It was this error that gave rise to the fiction 
that the Law of the Twelve Tables came to Rome from Greece. If that had been 
the case, it would have been a civil law communicated to other peoples by human 
provision, and not a law which divine providence ordained naturally in all na- 
tions along with human customs themselves. Indeed it will be one of our con- 


stant labors throughout this book to demonstrate that the natural law of nations 
originated separately among the various peoples, each in ignorance of the others, 
and that subsequently, as a result of wars, embassies, alliances and commerce, 
it came to be recognized as common to the entire human race. 


147 The nature of things is nothing but their coming into being (nasci- 
mento) at certain times and in certain fashions. Whenever the time and fashion 
is thus and so, such and not otherwise are the things that come into being. 


148 The inseparable properties of things must be due to the mode or 
fashion in which they are born. By these properties we may therefore tell that 
the nature or birth (natura o nasdmento) was thus and not otherwise. 


149 Vulgar traditions must have had public grounds of truth, by virtue 
of which they came into being and were preserved by entire peoples over long 
periods of time. 

150 It will be another great labor of this Science to recover these grounds 
of truth truth which, in the passage of years and the changes in languages and 
customs, has come down to us enveloped in falsehood. 


151 The vulgar tongues should be the most weighty witnesses concern- 
ing those ancient customs of the peoples that were observed at the time when 
the languages were being formed. 


152 A language of an ancient nation, which has maintained itself as the 
dominant tongue throughout its development, should be a great witness to the 
customs of the early days of the world. 

153 This axiom assures us that the weightiest philological proofs of the 
natural law of nations (in the understanding of which the Romans were un- 
questionably preeminent) can be drawn from Latin speech. For the same reason 
scholars of the German language can do the like, since it retains this same prop- 
erty possessed by the ancient Roman language. 


154 If the Laws of the Twelve Tables were customs of the peoples of 
Latium, originating in the age of Saturn, remaining unwritten elsewhere [in 
Latium] but set down by the Romans in bronze and guarded with religious care 
by Roman jurisprudence, then this Law is a great witness of the ancient natural 
law of the nations of Latium. 


155 That this was true in fact, we showed many years ago in our Prin- 
ciples of Universal Law, and the present work will throw further light upon it. 


156 If the poems of Homer are civil histories of ancient Greek customs, 
they will be two great treasure houses of the natural law of the nations of 

157 For the present this axiom is merely assumed; later its truth will be 


158 The Greek philosophers hastened the natural course which their na- 
tion was to undergo, for when they appeared the Greeks were still in a crude 
state of barbarism, from which they advanced immediately to one of the highest 
refinement while at the same time preserving intact their fables both of gods 
and of heroes. The Romans, on the other hand, proceeding at an even pace in 
[the development of] their customs, quite lost sight of the history of their gods 
(whence the age of the gods, as the Egyptians named it, is called by Varro the 
obscure period of the Romans), but preserved in vulgar speech their heroic his- 
tory, which extends from the time of Romulus to the Publilian and Petelian laws, 
and which will be found to be a continuous historic mythology of the Greek 
age of the heroes. 

159 [That] this [is the] nature of human civil affairs is confirmed by 
the example of the French nation. For in the midst of the barbarism of the 
twelfth century there was opened the famous Parisian school where Peter 
Lombard, the celebrated master of the Sentences, began to lecture on the subtlest 
scholastic theology. And like a Homeric poem there still lived on the history of 
Bishop Turpin of Paris, full of all those fables of the heroes of France called 
paladins which were later to fill so many romances and poems. And because of 
this premature passage from barbarism to the subtlest sciences, French remained 
a language of the greatest refinement. So much so indeed that of all living lan- 
guages it seems most to have restored to our times the atticism of the Greeks, 
and it is the best of all languages for scientific reasoning, as the Greek was. Yet 
French preserves, as Greek did, many diphthongs, which are natural to a bar- 
barous tongue still stiff and inept at combining consonants with vowels. In 
confirmation of what we have said of both these languages, we may here add 
an observation in regard to young people at an age when memory is tenacious, 
imagination vivid, and wit nimble. At this age they may profitably occupy them- 
selves with languages and plane geometry, without thereby subduing that 
acerbity of minds still bound to the body which may be called the barbarism of 
the intellect. But if they pass on while yet in this immature stage to the highly 
subtle studies of metaphysical criticism or algebra, they become overfine for life 
in their way of thinking and are rendered incapable of any great work. 


160 But as we further meditated this work we came upon another cause 
for the effect in question, and this cause is perhaps more apposite. Romulus 
founded Rome in the midst of the other more ancient cities of Latium, and 
founded it by opening there the asylum which Livy defines generally as "an old 
counsel of founders of cities" (yetus urbes condentium consilium)\ for since 
violence still reigned he naturally established the city of Rome on the same basis 
on which the oldest cities of the world had been founded. And so it came about, 
since Roman customs were developing from such beginnings at a time when the 
vulgar tongues of Latium were already well advanced, that Roman civil affairs, 
the like of which the Greeks had set forth in heroic speech, were set forth by the 
Romans in vulgar speech. Thus ancient Roman history will be found to be a 
continuous mythology of the heroic history of the Greeks. And this must be the 
reason why the Romans were the heroes of the world. For Rome subdued the 
other cities of Latium, then Italy and finally the whole world, because heroism 
was still young among the Romans, whereas among the other peoples of Latium, 
from whose conquest all the greatness of Rome sprang, it must already have 
begun to decay. 


161 There must in the nature of human things be a mental language 
common to all nations, which uniformly grasps the substance of things feasible 
in human social life, and expresses it with as many diverse modifications as 
these same things may have diverse aspects. A proof of this is afforded by proverbs 
or maxims of vulgar wisdom, in which substantially the same meanings find as 
many diverse expressions as there are nations ancient and modern. 

162 This common mental language is proper to our Science, by whose 
light linguistic scholars will be enabled to construct a mental vocabulary com- 
mon to all the various articulate languages living and dead. We gave a particular 
example of this in the first edition of the New Science. There we proved that 
the names of the first family fathers, in a great number of living and dead lan- 
guages, were given them because of the various properties which they had in 
the state of the families and of the first commonwealths, at the time when 
the nations were forming their languages. As far as our small erudition will 
permit, we shall make use of this vocabulary in all the matters we discuss. 

163 Of all the aforesaid propositions, the first, second, third and fourth 
give us the basis for refuting all opinions hitherto held about the beginnings of 
humanity. The refutations turn on the improbabilities, absurdities, contradic- 
tions and impossibilities of these opinions. The subsequent propositions, from 
the fifth to the fifteenth, which give us the basis of truth, will serve for consider- 
ing this world of nations in its eternal idea, by that property of every science, 
noted by Aristotle, that "science has to do with what is universal and eternal" 
(scientia debet esse de universalibus et aeternis). The last propositions, from the 
fifteenth to the twenty-second, will give us the basis of certitude. By their use 


we shall be able to sec in fact this world of nations which we have studied in 
idea, following the method of philosophizing made most certain by Francis 
Bacon, Lord of Verulam, but carrying it over from the things of nature, on 
which he composed his book Cogitata [et] visa, to the civil affairs of mankind. 

164 The propositions set forth above arc general and are the basis of our 
Science throughout; those which follow are particular and provide more spe- 
cific bases for the various matters it treats of. 


165 Sacred history is more ancient than all the most ancient profane 
histories that have come down to us, for it narrates in great detail and over 
a period of more than eight hundred years the state of nature under the 
patriarchs; that is, the state of the families, out of which, by general agreement 
of political theorists, the peoples and cities later arose. Of this family state pro- 
fane history has told us nothing or little, and that little quite confused. 

166 This axiom proves the truth of sacred history as against the na- 
tional conceit pointed out to us by Diodorus Siculus, for the Hebrews have pre- 
served their memories in full detail from the very beginning of the world. 


167 The Hebrew religion was founded by the true God on the prohibi- 
tion of the divination on which all the gentile nations arose. 

168 This axiom is one of the principal reasons for the division of the 
entire world of the ancient nations into Hebrews and gentiles. 


169 That the flood was worldwide is proved not indeed by the philo- 
logical evidence of Martin Schoock, for it is far too slight, nor by the astrological 
evidence of Cardinal Pierre D'Ailly, followed by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. 
For this latter evidence is too uncertain, indeed quite false, relying as it does on 
the Alphonsine Tables t which were refuted by the Jews and are now refuted by 
the Christians, who, having rejected the calculations of Eusebius and Bede, now 
follow those of Philo the Jew. But our demonstration will be drawn from 
physical histories discerned in the fables, as will be seen from the following 


170 The giants were by nature of enormous build, like those monstrous 
and fierce creatures which travelers claim to have seen at the foot of America, 
in the country of the so-called "Patagones" [ = Big Feet]. And, putting aside 
the vain, abortive and false reasons adduced for these creatures by the philos- 
ophers, as collected and followed by Chassagnon in his De gigantibus, we shall 
adduce the causes, partly physical and partly moral, observed by Julius Caesar 
and Cornelius Tacitus in speaking of the gigantic stature of the ancient Ger- 


mans. In our view, these causes are to be traced to the savage education of 
their children. 


171 Greek history, from which we get all we know about the history 
of all other ancient gentile nations except the Roman, starts with the flood and 
the giants. 

172 These two axioms make it evident that the entire original human 
race was divided into two species: the one of giants, the other of men of normal 
stature; the former gentiles, the latter Hebrews. Also that this difference can 
only have come about as the result of the savage education of the former and 
the human education of the latter. Hence that the Hebrews had a different 
origin from that of the gentiles. 


173 Two great remnants of Egyptian antiquity have come down to us, 
as we have noted above [53]. One of them is the fact that the Egyptians re- 
duced all preceding world time to three ages, namely, the age of the gods, the 
age of the heroes, and the age of men. The other is that during these three ages 
three languages had been spoken, corresponding in order to the three aforesaid 
ages; namely, the hieroglyphic or sacred language, the symbolic or figurative 
(which is the heroic) language, and the epistolary or vulgar language of men 
employing conventional signs for communicating the common needs of their 


174 Homer, in five passages from his two poems to be cited later, men- 
tions a language more ancient than his own (which was certainly a heroic lan- 
guage) and calls it "the language of the gods." 


175 Varro had the diligence to assemble thirty thousand names of gods 
for the Greeks counted that many. These were related to as many needs of 
physical, moral, economic or civil life of the earliest times. 

176 These three axioms establish the fact that the world of peoples be- 
gan everywhere with religion. This will be the first of the three principles of 
this science. 


177 Wherever a people has grown savage in arms so that human laws 
have no longer any place among it, the only powerful means of reducing it is 

178 This axiom establishes the fact that divine providence initiated the 


process by which the fierce and violent were brought from their outlaw state 
to humanity and entered upon national life. It did so by awaking in them a con- 
fused idea of divinity, which they in their ignorance attributed to that to which 
it did not belong. Thus through the terror of this imagined divinity, they be- 
gan to put themselves in some order. 

179 Such an [initiating] principle of things Thomas Hobbes failed to 
see among his own "fierce and violent men,*' because he went afield in search of 
principles and fell into error with the "chance" of his Epicurus. He thought to 
enrich Greek philosophy by adding a great part which it certainly had lacked 
(as George Pasch observes in his DC eruditis huius saeculi inventis): the study 
of man in the whole society of the human race. But the result was as unhappy as 
the effort was noble. Nor would Hobbes have conceived this project if the 
Christian religion had not given him the inspiration for it. For it demands of 
all mankind not merely justice but charity. From this point begins the refuta- 
tion of the false dictum of Polybius that if the world had philosophers there 
would be no need of religions. For if there were in the world no common- 
wealths, which cannot arise without religions, it would have no philosophers. 


180 When men are ignorant of the natural causes producing things, and 
cannot even explain them by analogy with similar things, they attribute their 
own nature to them. The vulgar, for example, say the magnet loves the iron. 

181 This axiom is embraced by the first: namely, that the human mind, 
because of its indefinite nature, wherever it is lost in ignorance makes itself the 
rule of the universe in respect of everything it does not know. 


182 The physics of the ignorant is a vulgar metaphysics by which they 
refer the causes of the things they do not know to the will of God without con- 
sidering the means by which the divine will operates. 


183 That is a true property of the human mind which Tacitus points 
out where he says "minds once cowed are prone to superstition" (mobiles ad 
superstitioncm perculsac semel mentes). Once men are seized by a frightful 
superstition, they refer to it all they imagine, see, or even do. 


184 Wonder is the daughter of ignorance; and the greater the object 
of wonder, the more the wonder grows. 


185 Imagination is more robust in proportion as reasoning power is weak. 



186 The most sublime labor of poetry is to give sense and passion to 
insensate things; and it is characteristic of children to take inanimate things 
in their hands and talk to them in play as if they were living persons. 

187 This philologico-philosophical axiom proves to us that in the world's 
childhood men were by nature sublime poets. 


1 88 That is a golden passage in Lactantius Firmianus where he con- 
siders the origins of idolatry, saying: "Rude men at first called [them, i.e. the 
king and his family] gods either for their wonderful excellence (wonderful it 
seemed to men still rude and simple), or, as commonly happens, in admiration 
of present power, or on account of the benefits by which they had been con- 
ducted to civilization." 


189 Curiosity that inborn property of man, daughter of ignorance and 
mother of knowledge when wonder wakens our minds, has the habit, 
wherever it sees some extraordinary phenomenon of nature, a comet for ex- 
ample, a sun-dog, or a midday star, of asking straightway what it means. 


190 Witches, who are full of frightful superstitions, are also exceedingly 
savage and cruel. Indeed, if it is necessary for the solemnizing of their witch- 
craft, they do not shrink from killing and dismembering tender innocent chil- 

191 All these propositions from the twenty-eighth to the thirty-eighth 
reveal to us the beginnings of divine poetry or poetic theology. From the 
thirty-first on they give us the beginnings of idolatry; from the thirty-ninth, the 
beginnings of divination; and the fortieth finally gives us the beginnings of 
sacrifice in connection with bloodthirsty religions. These sacrifices began among 
the first crude savage men with votive offerings and human victims. The latter, 
as we learn from Plautus, were by the Latins vulgarly called "Saturn's victims" 
(Batumi hostiae). They were the sacrifices to Moloch among the Phoenicians, 
who passed through fire the children consecrated to that false divinity. Some of 
these consecrations were preserved in the Law of the Twelve Tables. These 
things give the right sense to that saying, "Fear first created gods in the world" 
(Primos in orbe dcos fecit timor) : false religions were born not of imposture 
but of credulity. Likewise the unhappy vow and sacrifice that Agamemnon made 
of his pious daughter Iphigenia, at which Lucretius impiously exclaims, "So 
great were the 4vils religion could prompt" (Tantum religio potuit suadere 
malorum), derive from the counsel of divine providence. For all this was neces- 


sary to tame the sons of the cyclopes and reduce them to the humanity of an 
Aristides, a Socrates, a Laelius and a Scipio Africanus. 


192 We postulate, and the postulate is reasonable, that for several hun- 
dred years the earth, soaked by the water of the universal flood, sent forth no 
dry exhalations or matter capable of igniting in the air to produce lightning. 


193 Jove hurls his bolts and fells the giants, and every gentile nation 
had its Jove. 

194 This axiom contains the physical history that the fables have pre- 
served for us: that the universal deluge covered the whole earth. 

195 This same axiom with its preceding postulate should make it clear 
to us that for a long period of time the impious races of the three children of 
Noah had wandered in a wild state, and in their feral wandering had become 
scattered and dispersed through the great forest of the earth, and that with 
their wild education giants had sprung up and existed among them at the 
time when the heavens thundered for the first time after the flood. 


196 Every gentile nation had its Hercules, who was the son of Jove; and 
Varro, the most learned of antiquarians, numbered as many as forty of them. 

197 This axiom marks the beginning of heroism among the first peo- 
ples, which was born of the false opinion that the heroes were of divine origin. 

198 This same axiom and the preceding one, giving us so many Joves 
and then so many Herculeses among the gentile nations, together show us that 
these nations could not have been founded without religion and could not 
grow without courage. Moreover, since in their beginnings these nations were 
forest-bred and shut off from any knowledge of each other, and since by axiom 
xiii "uniform ideas, born among peoples unknown to each other, must have a 
common ground of truth," these axioms give us this great principle as well: 
that the first fables must have contained civil truths, and must therefore have 
been the histories of the first peoples. 


199 The first sages of the Greek world were the theological poets, who 
certainly flourished before the heroic poets, just as Jove was the father of 

200 This and the two preceding axioms establish the fact that all the 
gentile nations, inasmuch as they all had their Joves and their Herculeses, were 
poetic in their beginnings; and that divine poetry was born first among them, 
and later heroic poetry. 



201 Men are naturally impelled to preserve the memories of the laws 
and orders that bind them in their societies. 


202 All barbarian histories have fabulous beginnings. 

203 All these axioms from the forty-second on give us the beginning of 
our historical mythology. 


204 The human mind is naturally impelled to take delight in uniformity. 

205 This axiom, as applied to the fables, is confirmed by the habit the 
vulgar have when making up fables of men famous for this or that, in these 
or those circumstances, of making the fable fit the character and occasion. 
These fables are ideal truths conforming to the merits of those of whom the vul- 
gar tell them; and such falseness in fact as they now and then contain consists 
simply in failure to give their subjects their due. So that, if we consider the 
matter well, poetic truth is metaphysical truth, and physical truth which is not 
in conformity with it should be considered false. Thence springs this important 
consideration in poetic theory: the true war chief, for example, is the Godfrey 
that Torquato Tasso imagines; and all the chiefs who do not conform throughout 
to Godfrey are not true chiefs of war. 


206 The nature of children is such that by the ideas and names associated 
with the first men, women and things they have known, they afterwards appre- 
hend and name all the men, women and things which have any resemblance 
or relation to the first. 


207 A truly golden passage is that above cited from lamblichus On the 
Mysteries of the Egyptians to the effect that the Egyptians attributed to Hermes 
Trismegistus all discoveries useful or necessary to human life. 

208 This statement, supported by the preceding axiom, will turn back 
to this divine philosopher all the senses of sublime natural theology that he him- 
self attributed to the mysteries of the Egyptians. 

209 These three axioms [XLVH-XLIX] give us the origin of the poetic char- 
acters that constitute the essence of the fables. The first of the three shows the nat- 
ural inclination of the vulgar to invent them, and to invent them appropriately. 
The second shows that the first men, the children as it were of the human race, 
not being able to form intelligible class-concepts of things, had a natural need to 
create poetic characters, that is, imaginative class-concepts or univcrsals, by reduc- 
ing to them as to certain models or ideal portraits all the particular species which 


resembled them. Because of the resemblance, the ancient fables could not but 
be created appropriately. Just so the Egyptians reduced to the genus "civil sage" 
all their inventions useful or necessary to the human race which are particular 
effects of civil wisdom, and because they could not abstract the intelligible genus 
"civil sage/' much less the form of the civil wisdom in which these Egyptians 
were sages, they imaged it forth as Hermes Trismegistus. So far were the 
Egyptians, at the time when they were enriching the world with discoveries 
useful or necessary to the human race, from being philosophers and understand- 
ing universals or intelligible class-concepts! 

210 This last axiom, following on those preceding, is the principle of 
the true poetic allegories which gave the fables univocal rather than analogous 
meanings for various particulars comprised under their poetic genera. They 
were therefore called diver silo quid, that is, expressions comprising in one gen- 
eral concept various species of men, deeds, or things. 


211 In children memory is most vigorous, and imagination is therefore 
excessively vivid, for imagination is nothing but extended or compounded 

212 This axiom is the explanation of the vividness of the poetic images 
the world had to form in its first childhood. 


213 In every pursuit men without natural aptitude succeed by obstinate 
study of technique, but in poetry he who lacks native ability cannot succeed 
by technique. 

214 This axiom shows that, since poetry founded gentile humanity, from 
which alone the arts were to spring, the first poets were such by nature. 


215 Children excel in imitation; we observe them generally amuse them- 
selves by imitating what they are able to understand. 

216 This axiom shows that the world in its infancy was composed of 
poetic nations, for poetry is nothing but imitation. 

217 This axiom will explain the fact that all the arts of things necessary, 
useful, convenient, and even in large part those of human pleasure, were in- 
vented in the poetic centuries before the philosophers came; for the arts are 
nothing but imitations of nature, poems in a certain way made of things. 


21 8 Men at first feel without observing, then they observe with a troubled 
and agitated spirit, finally they reflect with a clear mind. 

219 This axiom is the principle of the poetic sentences, which are formed 


with senses of passions and affections, in contrast with philosophic sentences, 
which are formed by reflection and reasoning. The more the latter rise toward 
universals, the closer they approach the truth; the more the former take hold 
of particulars, the more certain they become. 


220 Whatever appertains to men but is doubtful or obscure, they nat- 
urally interpret according to their own natures and the passions and habits 
springing from them. 

221 This axiom is a great canon of our mythology. According to it the 
fables originating among the first savage and crude men were very severe, as 
befitted the founding of nations emerging from a state of fierce bestial freedom. 
Then, with the long passage of years and change of customs, they were impro- 
priated, altered and obscured in the dissolute and corrupt times even before 
Homer. Because religion was important to the men of Greece, and they feared 
to have the gods opposed to their desires as they were to their customs, they 
attributed their customs to the gods and gave improper, ugly and obscene 
meanings to the fables. 


222 That is a golden passage of Eusebius (from his account of the wis- 
dom of the Egyptians as exalted above that of all other gentiles) in which he 
says: "The first theology of the Egyptians was simply a history interspersed with 
fables, to which later generations, growing ashamed of them, gradually at- 
tached mystical interpretations." That is what was done, for instance, by 
Manethos, or Manetho, the high priest of the Egyptians, when he translated 
all Egyptian history into a sublime natural theology, as has been said above [46]. 

223 These two axioms are two great proofs of our historic mythology, 
and they are at the same time two great whirlwinds to confound any notion 
of the matchless wisdom of the ancients, and two great foundations of the 
truth of the Christian religion, whose sacred history narrates nothing to be 
ashamed of. 


224 The first authors among the Easterners, Egyptians, Greeks and 
Latins, and, in the second barbarism, the first writers in the modern languages 
of Europe, were poets. 


225 Mutes make themselves understood by gestures or objects that have 
natural relations with the ideas they wish to signify. 

226 This axiom is the principle of the hieroglyphs by which all nations 
spoke in the time of their first barbarism. 


227 It is also the principle of the natural speech which Plato (in the 
Cratylus) and after him lamblichus {On the Mysteries of the Egyptians) guessed 
to have been spoken in the world at one time. Their view was shared by the 
Stoics and by Origen (Against Celsus)', but, since it was but a guess, -it was 
opposed by Aristotle (in his On Interpretation) and by Galen (in his Doctrines 
of Hippoctates and Plato). The dispute is discussed by Publius Nigidius in Aulus 
Gellius. This natural speech must have been succeeded by the poetic discourse 
of images, similes, comparisons and natural properties. 


228 Mutes utter formless sounds by singing, and stammerers by sing- 
ing teach their tongues to pronounce. 


229 Men vent great passions by breaking into song, as we observe in the 
most grief-stricken and the most joyful. 

230 These two axioms supposing that the founders of the gentile na- 
tions had wandered about in the wild state of dumb beasts and that, being 
therefore sluggish, they were inexpressive save under the impulse of violent 
passions [lead to the conjecture that] their first languages must have been 
formed in singing. 


231 Languages must have begun with monosyllables, for [even] in the 
present abundance of articulated [i.e. polysyllabic] words into which children 
are now born they begin with monosyllables in spite of the fact that in them 
the fibers of the organ necessary to articulate speech are very flexible. 


232 Heroic verse is the oldest of all, and spondaic the slowest; and far- 
ther on we shall see that heroic verse was originally spondaic. 


233 Iambic verse is the closest to prose, and the iamb is a "swift foot," 
as Horace puts it. 

234 These last two axioms lead us to conjecture that ideas and language 
developed at equal pace. 

235 All these axioms from the forty-seventh on, together with those 
previously set forth as principles for all the rest [I-XXH], cover the divisions of 
poetic theory: namely, fable [or plot], custom [or character] and its appropriate- 
ness, sentence [or thought], style [or diction] and its clarity, allegory, song and 
finally verse. The last seven axioms [LVI-LXII] establish the fact that among all 
nations speech in verse preceded speech in prose. 



236 The human mind is naturally inclined by the senses to see itself ex- 
ternally in the body, and only with great difficulty does it come to attend to 
itself by means of reflection. 

237 This axiom gives us the universal principle of etymology in all lan- 
guages: words are carried over from bodies and from the properties of bodies 
to express the things of the mind and spirit. 


238 The order of ideas must follow the order of things. 


239 This was the order of human things: first the forests, after that the 
huts, thence the villages, next the cities and finally the academies. 

240 This axiom is a great principle of etymology, for this sequence of 
human things sets the pattern for the histories of words in the various native 
languages. Thus we observe in the Latin language that almost the whole corpus 
of its words had sylvan or rustic origins. For example, lex. First it must have 
meant "collection of acorns." Thence we believe is derived ilex, as it were illex, 
"the oak" (as certainly aquilex is the "collector of waters"); for the oak pro- 
duces the acorns by which the swine are drawn together. Lex was next "a col- 
lection of vegetables," from which the latter were called legumina. Later on, at 
a time when vulgar letters had not yet been invented for writing down the laws, 
lex by a necessity of civil nature must have meant "a collection of citizens" or 
the public parliament; so that the presence of the people was the law that 
solemnized the wills that were made calatis comitiis, in the presence of the as- 
sembled comitia. Finally collecting letters, and making as it were a sheaf of them 
in each word, was called legere, "reading." 


241 Men first feel necessity, then look for utility, next attend to com- 
fort, still later amuse themselves with pleasure, thence grow dissolute in luxury, 
and finally go mad and waste their substance. 


242 The nature of peoples is first crude, then severe, then benign, then 
delicate, finally dissolute. 


243 In the human race first appear the huge and grotesque, like the 
Cyclopes; then the proud and magnanimous, like Achilles; then the valorous 
and just, like AHstides and Scipio Africanus; nearer to us, imposing figures with 
great semblances of virtue accompanied by great vices, who among the vulgar 


win a name for true glory, like Alexander and Caesar; still later, the melancholy 
and reflective, like Tiberius; finally the dissolute and shameless madmen, like 
Caligula, Nero, and Domitian. 

344 This axiom shows that the first sort were necessary in order to make 
one man obey another in the family-state and prepare him to be law-abiding in 
the city-state that was to come; the second sort, who naturally did not yield to 
their peers, were necessary to establish the aristocratic commonwealths on the 
basis of the families; the third sort to open the way for popular liberty; the 
fourth to bring in the monarchies; the fifth to establish them; the sixth to over- 
throw them. 

245 This with the preceding axioms [LXV-LXVII] gives a part of the prin- 
ciples of the ideal eternal history traversed in time by every nation in its rise, de- 
velopment, maturity, decline and fall. 


246 Governments must conform to the nature of the men governed. 

247 This axiom shows that in the nature of human civil things the pub- 
lic school of princes is the morality of the peoples. 


248 Let that be granted which is not repugnant to nature and which we 
shall later find to be true in fact: that from the nefarious state of the outlaw 
world some few of the sturdiest first withdrew and established families, with 
whom and by whom they brought the fields under cultivation; and a long while 
later the many others also withdrew and took refuge on the lands cultivated 
by these fathers. 


249 Native customs, and above all that of natural liberty, do not change 
all at once but by degrees and over a long period of time. 


250 Since all nations began with the cult of some divinity, in the family 
state the fathers must have been the sages in auspicial divinity, the priests who 
sacrificed to take the auspices or to make sure of their meaning, and the kings 
who brought the divine laws to their families. 


251 It is a vulgar tradition that the first to govern the world were kings. 


252 It is another vulgar tradition that those were created the first kings 
who were the worthiest. 



253 It is yet another vulgar tradition that the first kings were sages, 
wherefore Plato expressed the vain wish for those ancient times in which 
philosophers reigned or kings were philosophers. 

254 All these axioms show that in the persons of the first fathers there 
were united wisdom, priesthood and kingship, and the kingship and priesthood 
depended on the wisdom, not indeed the esoteric wisdom of philosophers but the 
vulgar wisdom of lawgivers. And therefore thenceforward in all nations the 
priests wore crowns. 


255 It is a vulgar tradition that the first form of government in the 
world was the monarchical. 


256 But the sixty-seventh axiom with the others following, and in par- 
ticular with the corollary of the sixty-ninth, show us that in the family state the 
fathers must have exercised a monarchical power, subject only to God, over both 
the persons and the property of their children and to a much greater extent over 
those of the famuli who had taken refuge on their lands. So they were the 
first monarchs of the world, of whom sacred history must be understood to 
speak when it calls them patriarchs or father-princes. This monarchical right 
was preserved to them for the entire period of the Roman Republic by the Law 
of the Twelve Tables: "The family father shall have power of life and death over 
his children" (Pafrifamilias ius vitae et necis in liber os esto); from which it 
follows that "Whatever the son acquires, he acquires for his father" (Quicquid 
filius acquirit, patri acquirti). 


257 The families cannot have taken their name, in keeping with their 
origin, from anything but these famuli of the fathers in the then state of nature. 


258 The first socii, who are properly companions associated for mutual 
advantage, cannot be imagined or understood to have existed in the world 
previous to these fugitives who sought to save their lives by taking refuge with 
the aforesaid first fathers and who, having been received for their lives, were 
obliged to sustain them by cultivating the fields of the fathers. 

259 These were the true socii of the heroes. Later they were the plebeians 
of the heroic cities and finally the provincials of sovereign peoples. 



260 Men come naturally to the feudal system [ragione de' benefizi] 
wherever they see a possibility of retaining in it or gaining from it a good and 
great share of utility, for such are the benefits [benefizi] which may be hoped for 
in civil life. 


261 It is characteristic of the strong not to relinquish through laziness 
what they have acquired by courage. Rather do they yield, from necessity or for 
utility, as little as they can and bit by bit. 

262 From these two axioms spring the perennial sources of fiefs, which 
are called, with Roman elegance, benefices (beneficia). 


263 In all ancient nations we find everywhere clients and clienteles, which 
are best understood as vassals and fiefs. Nor can learned writers on feudal law 
find apter Latin terms [for the latter] than clientes and clientelae. 

264 These last three axioms with the preceding twelve, beginning with 
the seventieth, reveal to us the principles of the commonwealths, born of a great 
necessity (which we shall later determine) imposed upon the family fathers by 
the famuli; a necessity such that the commonwealths naturally took the aristo- 
cratic form. For the fathers united themselves in orders to resist the famuli who 
had rebelled against them; and, once thus united, to satisfy these famuli and 
reduce them to obedience, they conceded to them a sort of rustic fiefs. The fathers 
in turn found their own sovereign family powers (which can only be under- 
stood on the analogy of noble fiefs) subjected to the sovereign civil authority 
of the ruling orders [in which they were now united]. The chiefs of the orders 
were called kings; it was their function, as the most courageous, to lead the 
fathers in times of revolt among the famuli. If such an origin of cities were 
offered as a hypothesis (which later we find to be the fact), it would command 
acceptance by its naturalness and simplicity and for the infinite number of civil 
effects which depend upon it as their proper cause. In no other way can we 
understand how civil power emerged from family power, and the public patri- 
mony from private patrimonies, or how the commonwealths had their ele- 
ments prepared in the form of an order of few to command and a multitude 
of plebeians to obey them. These are the two parts which make up the subject 
matter of politics. It will later be shown that civil states could not thus have 
been formed from families containing children only [and not famuli]. 


265 This law concerning the fields is established as the first agrarian 
law of the world, and it would be hard to imagine or conceive one more re- 
stricted in nature. 


266 This agrarian law distinguished the three types of ownership [or 
domain (dominium)] which can obtain in civil nature, attached to three classes 
of persons: the bonitary, to the plebeians; the quiritary, maintained by arms and 
consequently noble, to the fathers; and the eminent, to the order itself, which is 
the Seigniory or sovereign power in aristocratic commonwealths. 


267 There is a golden passage in Aristotle's Politics where, in his clas- 
sification of commonwealths, he includes the heroic kingdoms in which the 
kings administered the laws at home, conducted wars abroad, and were heads 
of the state religion. 

268 This axiom fits exactly the two heroic kingdoms of Theseus and 
Romulus, as we may see of the former in Plutarch's Life of him, and of the 
latter in Roman history; supplementing Greek history with Roman, where Tullus 
Hostilius administers the law in the accusation against Horatius. And the Ro- 
man kings were kings also of sacred things under the name of reges sacrorum; 
so that when the kings were driven from Rome, for the sake of certainty in the 
divine ceremonies an officer was created to be called rex sacrorum, who was the 
head of the fetiales or heralds. 


269 There is another golden passage in the Politics where Aristotle states 
that the ancient commonwealths had no laws to punish private offenses or to 
right private wrongs, and he says that such are the mores of barbarous peoples, 
for peoples are in their origins barbarous precisely because they are not yet 
tamed by laws, 

270 This axiom shows the necessity of duels and reprisals in barbarous 
times because in such times judicial laws are lacking. 


271 Golden too is that passage in the Politics where Aristotle says that 
in the ancient commonwealths the nobles swore to be eternal enemies of the 

272 This axiom explains the cause of the haughty, avaricious and cruel 
practices of the nobles toward the plebeians, which we see clearly portrayed in 
Roman history. For, within the bounds of what has hitherto been mistaken for 
popular liberty, for a long time they compelled the plebeians at the latter's ex- 
pense to serve them in war, and drowned them in a sr a of usury. Then, as the 
wretched plebeians could not meet their claims, they confined them for life in 
private prisons to make them pay off their debts by work and toil, and tyran- 
nically beat them with rods on their bare shoulders as if they were the most 
abject slaves. 



273 The aristocratic commonwealths are most cautious about going to 
war lest they make warriors of the multitude of plebeians. 

274 This axiom is the principle of the justice of the Roman arms up to 
the Punic wars. 


275 The aristocratic commonwealths keep the wealth within the order 
of the nobility, for wealth adds to the power of this order. 

276 This axiom is the principle of Roman clemency in victory; for they 
deprived the vanquished only of their arms, and left them in bonitary owner- 
ship of everything [else they had], subject to a tolerable tribute. Here too is 
the reason why the [Roman] fathers constantly resisted the agrarian laws of the 
Gracchi, because they did not wish to enrich the plebs. 


277 Honor is the noblest stimulus to military valor. 


278 Peoples are likely to conduct themselves heroically in war if in peace 
they compete among themselves for honors, some to retain them, others to 
win the merit of attaining them. 

279 This axiom is a principle of Roman heroism from the time of the 
expulsion of the tyrants down to the Punic wars. Within this period the nobles 
naturally dedicated themselves to such a safeguarding of their country as kept 
all civil honors safe within their own order, and the piebs undertook the most 
noteworthy enterprises to show that they were worthy of the honors held by the 


280 The contests waged by the orders in the cities for equality of rights 
are the most powerful means of making the commonwealths great. 

281 This is another principle of Roman heroism, implemented by three 
public virtues: the magnanimity of the plebs in wanting to share the civil rights 
and laws of the fathers; the strength of the fathers in keeping them within 
their own order; and the wisdom of the jurisconsults in interpreting them and 
extending their utility little by little as new cases demanded adjudication. These 
are the three proper reasons for the distinction which Roman law attained in 
the world. 

282 All these axioms, beginning with the eighty-fourth, set ancient Ro- 
man history forth in its proper aspect; the following three serve in part the 
same purpose. 



283 The weak want laws; the powerful withhold them; the ambitious, 
in order to win a following, advocate them; princes, in order to equalize the 
strong with the weak, protect them. 

284 This axiom, by its first and second clauses, is the torch of the heroic 
contests in the aristocratic commonwealths, in which the nobles want to keep 
the laws a secret monopoly of their order, so that they may depend on their will 
and that they may administer them with a royal hand. These are the three 
causes adduced by Pomponius the jurisconsult where he relates that the Roman 
people desire the Law of the Twelve Tables, complaining against the burden- 
someness of "secret, uncertain law and regal power" (jus latcns, inccrtum et 
manus regia). And it is the cause of the reluctance of the fathers to give [these 
Tables] to the people, insisting that "the customs of the fathers must be pre- 
served*' (mores patriot servandoi) and "the laws must not be published" (leges 
ferri non oportere), as Dionysius of Halicarnassus states. He was better informed 
on Roman matters than Livy, for he wrote of them under the guidance of Mar- 
cus Terentius Varro, who was acclaimed "the most learned of the Romans." 
On this particular matter he is diametrically opposed to Livy, who in his account 
of it says that the nobles (to use his words) "did not spurn the petitions of the 
plebs" (desideria plebis non aspernari). Because of this and other greater con- 
tradictions observed in our Principles of Universal Law, there being such op- 
position between the first authors who wrote of this fable almost five hundred 
years afterwards, it will be better not to believe either of the two. The more so 
since in the same period it was believed neither by Varro himself, who in his 
great work on things divine and human [Antiquitatcs] gave purely Latin 
origins to all the institutions divine and human of the Romans, nor by Cicero, 
who makes the orator Marcus [i.e. Lucius Licinius] Crassus say in the presence 
of Quintus Mucius Scaevola, the prince of jurisconsults of his day, that the 
wisdom of the decemvirs surpassed by a great deal that of Draco and Solon, 
who gave laws to the Athenians, and that of Lycurgus who gave them to the 
Spartans: which is as much as to say that the Laws of the Twelve Tables did 
not come to Rome from Athens or Sparta. Here we believe we are getting at the 
truth. In Cicero's day the fable was too generally accepted among scholars, born 
as it was of the conceit of the learned in giving wisest origins to the wisdom they 
profess. This is the point of the words spoken by Crassus himself: "Though all 
of you grumble, I shall say what I think" (Fremant omncs, dicam quod scntio). 
Cicero's reason, therefore, for having Quintus Mucius present on that first day 
only, was to remove any objection to his having an orator speak of the history 
of Roman law, the field of knowledge proper to the jurisconsults. (These were 
two distinct professions at that time.) For if Crassus had said anything false 
on the subject, Mucius would certainly have reproved him for it, as, according 
to Pomponius, he reproved Servius Sulpicius (who is present at this same dis- 


cussion), saying to him that "it was a disgrace for a nobleman not to know the 
law which was his profession" (turpe cssc patricio viro ius, in quo versaretur, 

285 But, more than Cicero and Varro, Polybius gives us an unanswer- 
able reason for not believing either Dionysius or Livy. And Polybius without 
doubt knew more of politics than these two and lived some two hundred years 
nearer the age of the decemvirs than they did. He sets himself (in the sixth 
book and the fourth and many following sections in the edition of Jakob Gronov) 
to examine carefully the constitutions of the most famous free commonwealths 
of his time, and he observes that the Roman constitution is quite different from 
that of Athens or Sparta. He finds it to differ from that of Athens even more 
than from that of Sparta, though those who compare Attic with Roman law 
will have it that it was from Athens rather than from Sparta that the laws came 
to order the popular liberty already founded by Brutus. But Polybius observes, 
on the other hand, a great similarity between the Roman and the Carthaginian 
constitutions. Yet no one has ever dreamed that the freedom of the latter was 
ordered by the laws of Greece; indeed, so far is this from being true that there 
was a law in Carthage expressly forbidding the Carthaginians to learn Greek. 
And how is it that such a learned writer on commonwealths does not investigate 
the reason of this difference and does not raise on this point the very natural and 
obvious question: How can the Roman and Athenian commonwealths be differ- 
ent and yet ordered by the same laws, and the Roman and Carthaginian com- 
monwealths be similar but ordered by different laws? To absolve him of so 
flagrant an oversight, we are compelled to say that in the time of Polybius there 
had not yet been born at Rome this fable that the Greek laws had been brought 
there from Athens to order free popular government. 

286 This same axiom, by its third clause, opens the way for the ambitious 
in the popular commonwealths to make themselves monarchs by seconding a 
natural desire of the plebs, who, not understanding universals, want a law for 
every particular case. Thus Sulla, the head of the party of the nobles, when he 
had defeated Marius, the head of the party of the plebs, and was reorganizing 
the popular state with an aristocratic government, remedied the multitude of 
laws by the quacstioncs pcrpetuac [a permanent tribunal for criminal investiga- 

287 And this same axiom, by its last clause, is the hidden reason why, be- 
ginning with Augustus, the Roman emperors made innumerable laws for pri- 
vate cases, and why the sovereigns and powers all over Europe received into 
their kingdoms and free commonwealths the Corpus of Roman Civil Law and 
that of Canon Law. 


288 Since the door of honors in the popular commonwealths is wide open 
by law to the greedy multitude which is in command, in times of peace nothing 


remains but to struggle for power, not by law but by arms, and use the power 
to make laws for one's own enrichment. Such were the agrarian laws of the 
Gracchi at Rome. The result is civil wars at home and unjust wars abroad at 
the same time, 

289 In this axiom Roman heroism is confirmed by contrast for the en- 
tire period before the Gracchi. 


290 Natural liberty is fiercer in proportion as property attaches more 
closely to the persons of its owners; and civil servitude is clapped on with goods 
of fortune not essential to life. 

291 The first part of this axiom is another principle of the natural hero- 
ism of the first peoples; the second part is the natural principle of monarchies. 


292 At first men desire to be free of subjection and attain equality; wit- 
ness the plebs in the aristocratic commonwealths, which finally turn popular. 
Then they attempt to surpass their equals; witness the plebs in the popular com- 
monwealths, later corrupted into commonwealths of the powerful. Finally they 
wish to put themselves above the laws; witness the anarchies or unlimited popu- 
lar commonwealths, than which there is no greater tyranny, for in them there 
are as many tyrants as there are bold and dissolute men in the cities. At this 
juncture the plebs, warned by the ills they suffer, and casting about for a remedy, 
seek shelter under monarchies. This is the natural royal law by which Tacitus 
legitimizes the Roman monarchy under Augustus, "who, when the world was 
wearied by civil strife, subjected it to empire under the title of Prince" (qui 
cuncta, bellis civilibus fessa, nomine "principis" sub imperium accepit). 


293 When the first cities were established on the basis of the families, 
the nobles, by reason of their native lawless liberty, were opposd to checks and 
burdens; witness the aristocratic commonwealths in which the nobles are lords. 
Later they are forced by the plebs, greatly increased in numbers and trained in 
war, to submit to laws and burdens equally with their plebeians; witness the 
nobles in the popular commonwealths. Finally, in order to preserve their com- 
fortable existence, they are naturally inclined to accept the supremacy of one 
ruler; witness the nobles under the monarchies. 

294 These two axioms with the others preceding, from the sixty-sixth 
on, are the principles of the ideal eternal history above referred to. 


295 Let it be granted, as a postulate not repugnant to reason, that after 
the flood men hved first on the mountains, somewhat later came down to the 
plains, and finally after long ages dared to approach the shores of the sea. 



296 In Strabo [XIII, i, 25] there is a golden passage of Plato [Laws III, 
677 ff.] saying that, after the local Ogygian and Deucalionian floods, men dwelt 
in caves m the mountains; and he identifies these first men with the cyclopes, in 
whom elsewhere he recognizes the first family fathers of the world. Later they 
dwelt on the mountain sides, and he sees them represented by Dardanus, the 
builder of Pergamum which later became the citadel of Troy. Finally they 
came down to the plains; this he sees represented by Ilus, by whom Troy was 
moved onto the plain near the sea, and from whom it took the name of Ilium. 


297 It is also an ancient tradition that Tyre was founded first inland and 
later was moved onto the coast of the Phoenician sea; as it is certain history that 
it was transported from the shore onto a close-lying island, from which Alexander 
the Great reattached it to the mainland [by a causeway]. 

298 These two axioms and the preceding postulate show is that the in- 
land nations were founded first and later the maritime. And they give us a 
great argument to prove the antiquity of the Hebrew people, which was founded 
by Noah in Mesopotamia, the country farthest inland of the first habitable 
world; so it must have been the most ancient of all nations. And this is confirmed 
by the fact that the first monarchy was founded there, that of the Assyrians 
over the Chaldean people, from whom came the first wise men of the world, 
their prince being Zoroaster. 

299 Only by extreme necessities of life are men led to abandon their own 
lands, which are naturally dear to those native to them. Nor do they leave them 
temporarily, except from greed to get rich by trade, or from anxiety to keep what 
they have acquired. 

300 This axiom is the principle of the transmigrations of peoples. It is 
an induction from the heroic maritime colonies, the inundations of the barbarians 
(of whifh alone Wolfgang Latius wrote), the latest known Roman colonies, 
and the colonies of Europeans in the Indies. 

301 And this same axiom shows us that the lost races of the three sons 
of Noah must be supposed to have gone off into bestial wandering, fleeing from 
beasts (of which the great forest of the earth must have held an unhappy 
abundance), pursuing the shy and indocile women (for in such a savage state 
they must have been extremely indocile and shy), and then later seeking pas- 
tureland and water, in order to account for their being scattered over the whole 
earth by the time when the heavens first thundered after the flood. It was thus 
that every gentile nation began with its own Jove. For if these lost races had 
persisted in humanity as the people of God did, they would likewise have re- 
mained in Asia. For both because of the vastness of that great part of the world 


and because of the paucity of men in those days, there was no compelling rea- 
son for their abandoning it, since it is not a natural custom to abandon one's 
native land through caprice. 


302 The Phoenicians were the first navigators of the ancient world. 


303 Nations in their barbarous condition are impenetrable; they must 
either be broken into from outside by war or voluntarily opened to strangers 
for the advantages of trade. Thus Psammeticus opened Egypt to the Ionian and 
Carian Greeks, whose renown for maritime traffic must have been second to 
that of the Phoenicians. So great was their wealth that the temple of Samian 
Juno was founded in Ionia, and the mausoleum of Artemisia was built in Caria; 
and these were two of the seven wonders of the world. The glory of this trade 
was inherited by the Rhodians; in the mouth of their port they erected the 
great Colossus of the Sun, which was also counted among the above-mentioned 
wonders. So too the Chinese, with a view to the advantages of trade, have re- 
cently opened their country to us Europeans. 

304 These three axioms give us the principle of a new etymologicon for 
words of certainly foreign origin, different from that mentioned above [240] for 
native words. It can also give us the history of nations carried one after another 
into foreign lands by colonization. Thus Naples was first called Sirena (siren), 
a Syriac word; which is evidence that the Syrians, that is the Phoenicians, had 
been the first to establish a colony there, for commercial purposes. Later it was 
called Parthenope, in heroic Greek, and finally Neapolis, in vulgar Greek; 
names which prove that the Greeks had afterwards settled there to establish 
trading posts. From this succession there was sure to emerge a mixed language 
of Phoenician and Greek, in which it is said that the emperor Tiberius took 
greater pleasure than in pure Greek. Thus also on the gulf of Tarentum there 
was a Syrian colony called Siris, whose inhabitants were called Sirites. It was 
later called by the Greeks Polieion, whence the appellation Polias was given to 
Minerva, who had a temple there. 

305 This axiom moreover gives a scientific foundation to the thesis of 
Giambullari that the Etruscan language is of Syriac origin. Such a language 
could have come only from the most ancient Phoenicians, who, by the axiom 
above laid down [302] were the first navigators of the ancient world. For later 
this glory belonged to the Carian and Ionian Greeks, and finally to the Rhodians. 


306 The postulate must needs be granted that on the shore of Latium 
some Greek colony had been set up, which, after conquest and destruction by 
the Romans, remained buried in the darkness of antiquity. 


307 If this is not granted, anyone who reflects systematically upon antiq- 
uities must be baffled by Roman history when it speaks of Hercules and 
Evander, Arcadians and Phrygians, within the boundaries of Latium, and of 
Scrvius Tullius as a Greek, Tarquinius Priscus as the son of Demaratus the 
Corinthian, and Aeneas as the founder of the Roman people. Tacitus [Annals 
XI, 14] certainly speaks of the resemblance between Roman and Greek letters; 
yet at the time of Servius Tullius, in the opinion of Livy, the Romans never even 
heard of the famous name of Pythagoras, who was teaching in his most cele- 
brated school at Croton, and they did not make the acquaintance of the Greeks 
in Italy until the occasion of the war with Tarentum [116], which led to the 
later war with Pyrrhus and the Greeks across the sea. 


308 The remark of Dion Cassius [i.e. Chrysostom] is worthy of con- 
sideration, that custom is like a king and law like a tyrant; which we must 
understand as referring to reasonable custom and to law not animated by natural 

309 This axiom decides by implication the great dispute "whether law 
resides in nature or in the opinion of men," which comes to the same thing 
as that propounded in the corollary of the eighth axiom [135], "whether man is 
naturally sociable." In the first place, the natural law of nations was ordained by 
custom (which Dion says commands us by pleasure like a king) and not by 
law (which Dion says commands us by force like a tyrant). For it began in 
human customs springing from the common nature of all nations (which is the 
proper subject of our Science) and it preserves human society. Moreover, there 
is nothing more natural (for there is nothing more pleasant) than observing nat- 
ural customs. For all these reasons, human nature, in which such customs have 
had their origin, is perforce sociable. 

310 This axiom, with the eighth and its corollary, shows that man is 
unjust not by nature in the absolute sense, but by nature fallen and weak. Con- 
sequently it demonstrates the first principle of the Christian religion, which is 
Adam before the fall, in the ideal perfection in which he must have been created 
by God. And therefore it demonstrates the Catholic principles of grace: that it 
operates in the man who has privation and not negation of good works and who 
thus has an inefficacious power for them, and that grace is efficacious therefore 
[to supply this lack]; that for that reason it cannot exist without the principle 
of free will, which God naturally aids by His providence (as has been said 
above in the second corollary of the same eighth axiom [136]), with regard to 
which the Christian religion is in accord with all others. This is what Grotius, 
Seldcn and Pufcndorf should have founded their systems upon before everything 
else, in agreement with the Roman jurisconsults who define "the natural law of 
nations as having been ordained by divine providence." 



311 The natural law of nations is coeval with the customs of the nations, 
conforming one with another in virtue of a common human sense, without any 
reflection and without one nation following the example of another, 

312 This axiom, with the saying of Dion quoted in the preceding axiom, 
proves that providence, being sovereign over the affairs of men, is the ordainer 
of the natural law of nations. 

313 This same axiom establishes the difference between the natural law 
of the Hebrews, the natural law of nations, and the natural law of the philos- 
ophers. For whereas the gentile nations had only the ordinary help of provi- 
dence, the Hebrews had extraordinary help from the true God; on this account 
the latter divided the whole world of nations into Hebrews and gentiles. The 
philosophers reason it out more completely than the gentiles are wont to, for 
they did not appear until some two thousand years after the gentile nations were 
founded. On account of their failure to observe these differences between the 
three [natural laws], the three systems of Grotius, Selden and Pufendorf must 


314 Doctrines must take their beginning from that of the matters of 
which they treat. 

315 This axiom, placed here for [its application to] the particular matter 
of the natural law of nations, is universally used in all the matters which are 
herein discussed. It might have been laid down among the general axioms; but 
it has been placed here because in this more than any other particular matter its 
truth and the importance of using it are apparent. 


316 The [first] gentes began before the cities; they were called by the 
Latins gentes maiores or ancient noble houses like those of the Roman fathers 
of whom Romulus constituted the senate, and, with the senate, the city of Rome. 
On the other hand they called gentes minores the new noble houses founded 
after the cities; those for example with whose fathers Junius Brutus, after the 
expulsion of the kings, replenished the senate when it had been depleted by the 
deaths of the senators executed by order of Tarquinius Superbus, 


317 There was a corresponding twofold division of the gods. First 
there were those of the gentes maiores, that is, gods who were consecrated by 
the families before the time of the cities. Among the Greeks and Latins these 
were certainly twelve in number. We shall show that such was also the case 
among the first Assyrians, Chaldeans, Phoenicians and Egyptians. Among the 


Greeks their number was so well known that they were called simply "the 
twelve." These gods are brought confusedly together in a Latin distich quoted in 
our Principles of Universal Law. Here, however, in Book Two, following a nat- 
ural theogony or generation of the gods framed naturally in the minds of the 
Greeks, they will be set forth in this order: Jove, Juno; Diana, Apollo; Vulcan, 
Saturn, Vesta; Mars, Venus; Minerva, Mercury; Neptune. Secondly, there were 
the gods of the gentes minores, that is to say those consecrated later by the peo- 
ples; for example Romulus, whom after his death the Roman people called the 
god Quirinus. 

318 By these three axioms the three systems of Grotius, Selden and 
Pufendorf are found wanting in their beginnings. For they begin with nations 
reciprocally related in the society of the entire human race. Whereas, among all 
the first nations, as we shall show here, the race began in the time of the families, 
under the gods of the so-called gentes maiores. 


319 Men of limited ideas take for law what the words expressly say. 


320 Golden is the definition which Ulpian [] assigns to civil 
equity: "a kind of probable judgment, not naturally known to all men" (as 
natural equity is) "but to those few who, being eminently endowed with 
prudence, experience, or learning, have come to know what things are necessary 
for the conservation of human society" (probabilis quaedam ratio, non omnibus 
homimbus naturahter cognita, sed paucis tantum, qui, prudcntia, usu t doctrina 
praediti, didtcerunt quae ad soaetatis humanae conservationem sunt necessaria). 
This is what is nowadays called "reason of state." 


321 The certitude of the laws is an obscurity of judgment backed only 
by authority, so that we find them harsh in application, yet are obliged to apply 
them by their certitude. In good Latin certum means "particularized," or, as the 
schools say, "individuated"; so that, in overelegant Latin, certum and commune 
are opposed to each other. 

322 This axiom [319] and the two following definitions [320, 321] con- 
stitute the principle of strict law. Its rule is civil equity, by whose certitude, that 
is to say by the determinate particularity of whose words, the barbarians, [men] 
of particular [not universal] ideas, are naturally satisfied, and such is the law 
they think is their due. So that what Ulpian says in such cases, "the law is harsh, 
but so it is written" (lex dura est, sed scripta est), may be put in finer Latin and 
with greater legal elegance, "the law is harsh, but it is certain" (lex dura est, 
sed certa est). 



323 Intelligent men take for law whatever impartial utility dictates in 
each case. 


324 The truth of the laws is a certain light and splendor with which nat- 
ural reason illuminates them; so that jurisconsults are often in the habit of say- 
ing vcrum est for aequum est. 

325 This definition and the mth [321] are particular propositions 
whose purpose is to apply to the particular matter of the natural law of nations 
the two general definitions [137, 138] which trejt of the true and the certain in 
general with a view to conclusions in all the matters that are herein treated. 


326 The natural equity of fully developed human law is a practice of 
wisdom in affairs of utility, since wisdom in its broad sense is nothing but the 
science of making such use of things as their nature dictates. 

327 This axiom [323] and the two following definitions [324, 326] con- 
stitute the principle of mild law. Its rule is the natural equity which is connat- 
ural with civilized nations. This is the public school from which, as we shall 
show, the philosophers emerged. 

328 All these last six propositions [319, 320, 321, 323, 324, 326] establish 
the fact that the natural law of nations was ordained by providence. In order 
that the nations might be preserved, and since they had to live for centuries in- 
capable of truth and natural equity (the latter of which the philosophers later 
clarified), providence permitted them to cleave to certitude and civil equity, 
which guards scrupulously the words of decrees and laws, and to be led by the 
words to observe them generally, even in cases where they proved harsh. 

329 Now the fact that the three princes of the doctrine of the natural law 
of nations knew nothing of these six propositions caused all three of them to err 
in concert in establishing their systems. For they believed that natural equity in 
its perfect form had been understood by the gentile nations from their first be- 
ginnings; they did not reflect that it took some two thousand years for philos- 
ophers to appear in any of them; and they took no account of the particular as- 
sistance which a single people received from the true God. 



330 Now, in order to make trial whether the propositions hitherto enu- 
merated as elements of this Science can give form to the materials prepared in 
the Chronological Table at the beginning, we beg the reader to consider what- 
ever has been written concerning the principles of any subject in the whole of 
gentile knowledge, human and divine. Let him then see if it is inconsistent with 
these propositions, whether with all or some or one. For inconsistency with one 
would amount to inconsistency with all, since each accords with all Certainly 
on making such a comparison he will perceive that it is a tissue of confused 
memories, of the fancies of a disordered imagination; that none of it is be- 
gotten of intelligence, which has been rendered useless by the two conceits 
enumerated in the Axioms [125, 127]. For on the one hand the conceit of the 
nations, each believing itself to have been the first in the world, leaves us no 
hope of getting the principles of our Science from the philologians. And on the 
other hand the conceit of the scholars, who will have it that what they know must 
have been eminently understood from the beginning of the world, makes us 
despair of getting them from the philosophers. So, for purposes of this inquiry, 
we must reckon as if there were no books in the world. 

331 But in the night of thick darkness enveloping the earliest antiquity, 
so remote from ourselves, there shines the eternal and never-failing light of a 
truth beyond all question: that the world of civil society has certainly been 
made by men, and that its principles are therefore to be found within the 
modifications of our own human mind. Whoever reflects on this cannot but 
marvel that the philosophers should have bent all their energies to the study of 
the world of nature, which, since God made it, He alone knows; and that they 
should have neglected the study of the world of nations or civil world, which, 
since men had made it, men could hope to know. This aberration was a conse- 
quence of that infirmity of the human mind, noted in the Axioms [236], by 
which, immersed and buried in the body, it naturally inclines to take notice of 
bodily things, and finds the effort to attend to itself too laborious; just as the 
bodily eye sees all objects outside itself but needs a mirror to see itself. 


332 Now since this world of nations has been made by men, let us see 
in what things all men agree and always have agreed. For these things will 
be able to give us the universal and eternal principles (such as every science must 
have) on which all nations were founded and still preserve themselves. 

333 We observe that all nations, barbarous as well as civilized, though 
separately founded because remote from each other in time and space, keep 
these three human customs: all have some religion, all contract solemn mar- 
riages, all bury their dead. And in no nation, however savage and crude, are 
any human activities celebrated with more elaborate ceremonies and more 
sacred solemnity than religion, marriage and burial. For, by the axiom [144] 
that "uniform ideas, born among peoples unknown to each other, must have 
a common ground of truth," it must have been dictated to all nations that 
from these three institutions humanity began among them all, and therefore 
they must be most devoutly observed by them all, so that the world should not 
again become a bestial wilderness. For this reason we have taken these three 
eternal and universal customs as three first principles of this Science. 

334 Let not our first principle be accused of falsehood by the modern 
travelers who narrate that peoples of Brazil, South Africa and other nations 
of the new world live in t society without any knowledge of God, as Antoine 
Arnauld believes to be the case also of the inhabitants of the islands called 
Antilles. Persuaded perhaps by them, Bayle affirms in his treatise on comets 
that peoples can live in justice without the light of God. This is a bolder state- 
ment than Polybius ventured in the dictum for which he has been acclaimed 
[179], that if the world had philosophers, living in justice by reason and not 
by laws, it would have no need of religions. These are travelers' tales, to pro- 
mote the sale of their books by the narration of portents. Certainly Andreas 
Riidiger in his Physics, pretentiously entitled divine [Physica divtna] and pur- 
porting to show the only middle path between atheism and superstition, is 
gravely reproved for this opinion by the censors of the University of Geneva. 
They charge that "he states it with too much assurance," which is the same as 
saying with not a little boldness. (Yet in the Republic of Geneva, as being free 
and popular, there would be considerable freedom in writing.) For all nations 
believe in a provident divinity, yet through all the length of years and all the 
breadth of this civil world it has been possible to find only four primary religions. 
The first is that of the Hebrews, whence came that of the Christians, both be- 
lieving in the divinity of an infinite free mind. The third is that of the gentiles, 
who believe in the divinity of a plurality of gods, each imagined as composed 
of body and of free mind. Hence, when they wish to signify the divinity that 
rules and preserves the world, they speak of deos immortales. The fourth and 
last is that of the Mohammedans, who believe in the divinity of one god, an 
infinite free mind in an infinite body, for they look forward to pleasures of the 
senses as rewards in the other life. 

335 No nation has believed in a god all body or in a god all mind but 


not free. And so neither the Epicureans who attribute to God body alone, and 
chance together with body, nor the Stoics who (in this respect the Spinozists 
of their day) make God an infinite mind, subject to fate, in an infinite body, 
could reason of commonwealths or laws; and Benedict Spinoza speaks of the 
commonwealth as of a society of shopkeepers. Cicero was indeed right when 
he told the Epicurean Atticus that he could not discuss laws with him unless he 
first granted the existence of divine providence. Such is the compatibility of 
these two sects, the Stoic and the Epicurean, with Roman jurisprudence, which 
takes divine providence for its first principle! 

336 In the second place, the opinion that the sexual unions which cer- 
tainly take place between free men and free women without solemn matrimony 
are free of natural wickedness [i.e. do not offend the law of nature], all the 
nations of the world have branded as false by the human customs with which 
they all religiously celebrate marriages, thereby determining that this sin is 
bestial, though in venial degree. And for this reason: such parents, since they 
are held together by no necessary bond of law, are bound to abandon their nat- 
ural children. Since their parents may separate at any time, if they are abandoned 
by both, the children must lie exposed to be devoured by dogs. If humanity, 
public or private, does not bring them up, they will have to grow up with no 
one to teach them religion, language, or any other human custom. So that, as 
for them, they are bound to cause this world of nations, enriched and adorned 
by so many beautiful arts of humanity, to revert to the great ancient forest 
through which in their nefarious feral wanderings once roamed the foul beasts 
of Orpheus, among whom bestial venery was practiced by sons with mothers and 
by fathers with daughters. This is the infamous nefas of the outlaw world, 
which Socrates by rather inappropriate physical reasons tried to prove was for- 
bidden by nature, whereas it is human nature that forbids it; for such relation- 
ships are abhorred naturally by all nations, nor were they ever practiced by any 
save in their last stage of corruption, as among the Persians. 

337 Finally, |to realize] what a great principle of humanity burial is, 
imagine a feral state in which human bodies remain unburied on the surface 
of the earth as food for crows and dogs. Certainly this bestial custom will be 
accompanied by uncultivated fields and uninhabited cities. Men will go about 
like swine eating the acorns found amidst the putrefaction of their dead. And 
so with good reason burials were characterized by the sublime phrase "com- 
pacts of the human race** (foedera generis humant), and with less grandeur 
were described by Tacitus as "fellowships of humanity" (humanitatis com- 
merda). Furthermore, it is an opinion in which all gentile nations have cer- 
tainly concurred, that the souls of the unburied remain restless on the earth and 
go wandering about their bodies, and consequently that they do not die with 
their bodies but are immortal. That such was the consensus of the ancient bar- 
barous nations may be inferred from what we are told of the [present] peoples 
of Guinea by Hugo van Linschooten; of those of Peru and Mexico, by Acosta; 


of the inhabitants of Virginia, by Thomas Harriot; of those of New England, by 
Richard Whitbourne; of those of the kingdom of Siam, by Joost Schoutcn. Thus 
Seneca [Ep. CXVH, 5-6] concludes: "When we discuss immortality, we are in- 
fluenced in no small degree by the general opinion of mankind, who either fear 
or worship the spirits of the lower world. I make the most of this general belief." 
(Quurn de immortalitatc loquimur, non Icvc momentum apud nos habet con- 
sensus hominum aut timentium inferos aut colentium: hac persuasions publica 



338 To complete the establishment of the principles which have been 
adopted for this Science, it remains in this first book to discuss the method which 
it should follow. It must begin where its subject matter began, as we said in the 
Axioms [314]. We must therefore go back with the philologians and fetch it 
from the stones of Deucalion and Pyrrha, from the rocks of Amphion, from 
the men who sprang from the furrows of Cadmus or the hard oak of Vergil. 
With the philosophers we must fetch it from the frogs of Epicurus, from the 
cicadas of Hobbcs, from the simpletons of Grotius; from the men cast into this 
world without care or aid of God, of whom Pufendorf speaks, as clumsy and 
wild as the so-called Patagonian giants, who are said to be found near the 
strait of Magellan; which is as much as to say from the cyclopes of Homer in 
whom Plato recognizes the first fathers in the state of the families. (This is the 
science the philologians and philosophers have given us of the beginnings of 
humanity!) Our treatment of it must take its start from the time these creatures 
began to think humanly. In their monstrous savagery and unbridled bestial free- 
dom there was no means to tame the former or bridle the latter but the fright- 
ful thought of some divinity, the fear of whom, as we said in the Axioms [177], 
is the only powerful means of reducing to duty a liberty gone wild. To discover 
the way in which this first human thinking arose in the gentile world, we 
encountered exasperating difficulties which have cost us the research of a good 
twenty years. [We had] to descend from these human and refined natures of 
ours to those quite wild and savage natures, which we cannot at all imagine and 
can apprehend only with great effort. 

339 By reason of all this, we must start from some notion of God such 
as even the most savage, wild and monstrous men do not lack. That notion we 
show to be this: that man, fallen into despair of all the succors of nature, de- 
sires something superior to save him. But something superior to nature is God, 
and this is the light that God has shed on all men. Confirmation may be found in 
a common human custom, that libertines grown old, feeling their natural forces 
fail, turn naturally to religion. 


340 But these first men, who later became the princes of the gentile 
nations, must have done their thinking under the strong impulsion of violent 
passions, as beasts do. We must therefore proceed from a vulgar metaphysics, 
such as we have mentioned in the Axioms [182] and such as we shall find the 
theology of the poets to have been, and seek by its aid that frightful thought of 
some divinity which imposed form and measure on the bestial passions of these 
lost men and thus transformed them into human passions. From this thought 
must have sprung the impulse proper to the human will, to hold in check the 
motions impressed on the mind by the body, so as either to quiet them alto- 
gether, as becomes the sage, or at least to direct them to better use, as becomes the 
civil man. This control over the motion of their bodies is certainly an effect of 
the freedom of the human will, and thus of free will, which is the home and 
seat of all the virtues, and among the other* of justice. When informed by 
justice, the will is the fount of all that is just and of all the laws dictated by 
justice. But to endow bodies with impulse amounts to giving them freedom to 
regulate their motions, whereas all bodies are by nature necessary agents. And 
what the theorists of mechanics call powers, forces, impulses, are insensible mo- 
tions of bodies, by which they approach their centers of gravity, as ancient 
mechanics had it, or depart from their centers of motion, as modern mechanics 
has it. 

341 But men because of their corrupted nature are under the tyranny 
of self-love, which compels them to make private utility their chief guide. Seek- 
ing everything useful for themselves and nothing for their companions, they 
cannot bring their passions under control to direct them toward justice. We 
thereby establish the fact that man in the bestial state desires only his own wel- 
fare; having taken wife and begotten children, he desires his own welfare along 
with that of his family; having entered upon civil life, he desires his own wel- 
fare along with that of his city; when its rule is extended over several peoples, 
he desires his own welfare along with that of the nation; when the nations arc 
united by wars, treaties of peace, alliances and commerce, he desires his own 
welfare along with that of the entire human race. In all these conditions man 
desires principally his own utility. Therefore it is only by divine providence that 
he can be held within these orders to practice justice as a member of the society 
of the family, the state, and finally of mankind. Unable to attain all the utilities 
he wishes, he is constrained by these orders to seek those which arc his due; and 
this is called just. That which regulates all human justice is therefore divine 
justice, which is administered by divine providence to preserve human society. 

342 In one of its principal aspects, this Science must therefore be a ra- 
tional civil theology of divine providence, which seems hitherto to have been 
lacking. For the philosophers have either been altogether ignorant of it, as the 
Stoics and the Epicureans were, the latter asserting that human affairs are agi- 
tated by a blind concourse of atoms, the former that they are drawn by a deaf 
[inexorable] chfcin of cause and effect; or they have considered it solely in the 


order of natural things, giving the name of natural theology to the metaphysics 
in which they contemplate this attribute [i.e. the providence] of God, and in 
which they confirm it by the physical order observed in the motions of such 
bodies as the spheres and the elements and in the final cause observed in other 
and minor natural things. But they ought to have studied it in the economy of 
civil things, in keeping with the full meaning of applying to providence the 
term divinity, from divinari, to divine; that is, to understand what is hidden 
from men, the future, or what is hidden in them, their consciousness. It is this 
that makes up the first and principal part of the subject matter of jurisprudence, 
namely the divine things on which depend the human things which make up 
its other and complementary part. Our new Science must therefore be a demon- 
stration, so to speak, of the historical fact of providence, for it must be a history 
of the forms of order which, without human discernment or intent, and often 
against the designs of men, providence has given to this great city of the human 
race. For though this world has been created in time and particular, the orders 
established therein by providence are universal and eternal. 

343 In contemplation of this infinite and eternal providence our Science 
finds certain divine proofs by which it is confirmed and demonstrated. Since 
divine providence has omnipotence as minister, it develops its orders by means 
as easy as the natural customs of men. Since it has infinite wisdom as counselor, 
whatever it establishes is order. Since it has for its end its own immeasurable 
goodness, whatever it ordains must be directed to a good always superior to 
that which men have proposed to themselves. 

344 In the deplorable obscurity of the beginnings of the nations and in 
the innumerable variety of their customs, for a divine argument which embraces 
all human things, no sublimer proofs can be desired than those provided by 
the aforesaid naturalness, order and end (the preservation of the human race). 
These proofs will become luminous and distinct when we reflect with what 
ease things arc brought into being, by occasions arising far apart and some- 
times quite contrary to the proposals of men, yet fitting together of them- 
selves. Such proofs omnipotence affords. Compare the things with one another 
and observe the order by which those are now born in their proper times and 
places which ought now to be born, and others deferred for birth in theirs (and 
all the beauty of order, according to Horace, consists in this). Such proofs 
eternal wisdom provides. Consider, finally, if in these occasions, places and 
times we can conceive how other divine benefits could arise by which, in view 
of the particular needs and ills of men, human society could be better conducted 
or preserved. Such proofs the eternal goodness of God will give. 

345 Thus the proper and consecutive proof here adduced will consist 
in comparing and reflecting whether our human mind, in the series of pos- 
sibilities it is permitted to understand, and so far as it is permitted to do so, 
can conceive more or fewer or different causes than those from which issue the 
effects of this civil world. In doing this the reader will experience in his mortal 


body a divine pleasure as he contemplates in the divine ideas this world of na- 
tions in all the extent of its places, times and varieties. And he will find that he 
has in effect convinced the Epicureans that their chance cannot wander fool- 
ishly about and everywhere find a way out, and the Stoics that their eternal 
chain of causes, to which they will have it the world is chained, itself hangs 
upon the omnipotent, wise and beneficent will of the best and greatest God. 

346 These sublime proofs of natural theology will be confirmed for us 
by the following sorts of logical proofs. In reasoning of the origins of things 
divine and human in the gentile world, we reach those first beginnings beyond 
which it is vain curiosity to demand others earlier; and this is the defining 
character of [first] principles. We explain the particular ways in which they 
come into being, that is to say, their nature, the explanation of which is the dis- 
tinguishing mark of science. And finally [these proofs] are confirmed by the 
eternal properties [the things] preserve, which could not be what they are if 
the things had not come into being just as they did, in those particular times, 
places and fashions, which is to say with those particular natures, as we have 
set forth in two axioms [147, 148], 

347 In search of these natures of human things our Science proceeds by 
a severe analysis of human thoughts about the human necessities or utilities of 
social life, which are the, two perennial springs of the natural law of nations, 
as we have remarked in the Axioms [141]. In its second principal aspect, our 
Science is therefore a history of human ideas, on which it seems the metaphysics 
of the human mind must proceed. This queen of the sciences, by the axiom 
[314] that "the sciences must begin where their subject matters began/* took 
its start when the first men began to think humanly, and not when the 
philosophers began to reflect on human ideas (as in an erudite and scholarly little 
book recently published [by Brucker] under the title Hutoria philosophica doc- 
trinae de ideis, which comes down to the latest controversies between the two 
foremost minds of our age, Leibniz and Newton). 

348 To determine the times and places for such a history, that is, when 
and where these human thoughts were born, and thus to give it certainty by 
means of its own (so to speak) metaphysical chronology and geography, our 
Science applies a likewise metaphysical art of criticism with regard to the 
founders of these same nations, in which it took more than a thousand years for 
those writers to come forward with whom philological criticism has hitherto 
been occupied. And the criterion our criticism employs, in accordance with 
an axiom above stated [142], is that taught by divine providence and common 
to all nations, namely the common sense of the humcn race, determined by 
the necessary harmony of human things, in which all the beauty of the civil 
world consists. The decisive sort of proof in our Science is therefore this: that, 
once these orders were established by divine providence, the course of the affairs 
of the nations had to be, must now be and will have to be such as our Science 


demonstrates, even if infinite worlds were produced from time to time through 
eternity, which is certainly not the case. 

349 Our Science therefore comes to describe at the same time an ideal 
eternal history traversed in time by the history of every nation in its rise, progress, 
maturity, decline and fall. Indeed we go so far as to assert that whoever medi- 
tates this Science tells himself this ideal eternal history only so far as he makes 
it by that proof "it had, has, and will have to be." For the first indubitable prin- 
ciple above posited [331] is that this world of nations has certainly been made 
by men, and its guise must therefore be found within the modifications of our 
own human mind. And history cannot be more certain than when he who 
creates the things also describes them. Thus our Science proceeds exactly as 
docs geometry, which, while it constructs out of its elements or contemplates 
the world of quantity, itself creates it; but with a reality greater in proportion 
to that of the orders having to do with human affairs, in which there arc neither 
points, lines, surfaces, nor figures. And this very fact is an argument, O reader, 
that these proofs arc of a kind divine, and should give thee a divine pleasure; 
since in God knowledge and creation are one and the same thing. 

350 By the definitions of truth and certitude above proposed [138], men 
were for a long period incapable of truth and of reason, which is the fount of 
that inner justice by which the intellect is satisfied. This justice was practiced 
by the Hebrews, who, illuminated by the true God, were by his divine law 
forbidden even to have unjust thoughts, about which no mortal lawgiver ever 
troubled himself. (For the Hebrews believed in a God all mind who searches the 
hearts of men, and the gentiles believed in gods composed of bodies and mind 
who could not do so.) This same inner justice was later reasoned out by the 
philosophers, who did not arise until two thousand years after the nations were 
founded. In the meantime the nations were governed by the certitude of author- 
ity, that is, by the same criterion which is used by our metaphysical criticism; 
namely the common sense of the human race, which we have defined above in 
the elements [142], and on which the conscience of all nations reposes. So that, 
in this [third] principal regard, our Science comes to be a philosophy of au- 
thority, which is the fount of the outer justice of which the moral theologians 
speak. Of such authority account should have been taken by the three princes 
of the doctrine of the natural law of nations, and not of that drawn from pas- 
sages in the writers. For the authority of which we speak reigned among the 
nations for more than a thousand years before writers could arise, and they 
could have taken no cognizance of it. For that reason Grotius, more learned and 
erudite than either of the others, combats the Roman jurisconsults in almost 
every particular detail of this doctrine; but all his blows fall short, for the juris- 
consults established their principles of justice on the certitude of the authority 
of the human race, not on the authority of the learned. 

351 These are the philosophic proofs our Science will use, and consc- 


qucntly those which arc absolutely necessary for pursuing it. The philological 
proofs must come last. They all reduce to the following kinds: 

352 First, that our mythologies agree with the results of our meditations, 
not by force and distortion, but directly, easily and naturally; that they will be 
seen to be civil histories of the first peoples, who are everywhere found to have 
been naturally poets. 

353 Second, that the heroic phrases, as here explained in the full truth 
of the sentiments and the full propriety of the expressions, also agree. 

354 Third, that the etymologies of the native languages also agree, which 
tell us the histories of the things signified by the words, beginning with their 
original and proper meanings and pursuing the natural progress of their meta- 
phors according to the order of the ideas, on which the history of languages 
must proceed, as we have premised in the Axioms [238-240]. 

355 Fourth, the mental vocabulary of human social things, which are 
the same in substance as felt by all nations but diversely expressed in language 
according to their diverse manifestations, is exhibited to be such as we conceived 
it in the Axioms [161]. 

356 Fifth, truth is sifted from falsehood in everything that has been pre- 
served for us through long centuries by those vulgar traditions which, since 
they have been preserved for so long a time and by entire peoples, must by an 
axiom above stated [149] have had a public ground of truth. 

357 Sixth, the great fragments of antiquity, hitherto useless to science 
because they lay neglected, broken and scattered, shed great light when cleaned, 
pieced together and set in place. 

358 Seventh and last, to all these things, as to their necessary causes, 
are assigned all the effects narrated by certain history. 

359 These philological proofs enable us to see in fact the things we have 
meditated in idea concerning this world of nations, in accordance with Bacon's 
method of philosophizing, which is "think [and] see" (cogitare videre). Thus 
it is that with the help of the preceding philosophical proofs, the philological 
proofs which follow both confirm their own authority by reason and at the 
same time confirm reason by their authority. 

360 From all that has been set forth in general concerning the establish- 
ment of the principles of this Science, we conclude that, since its principles arc 
divine providence, moderation of the passions by marriage, and immortality of 
human souls [witnessed] by burial, and since the criterion it uses is that what 
is felt to be just by all men or by the majority must be the rule of social life 
(and on these principles and this criterion there is agreement between the vul- 
gar wisdom of all lawgivers and the esoteric wisdom of the philosophers of 
greatest repute), these must be the bounds of human reason. And let him who 
would transgress them beware lest he transgress all humanity. 





361 We have said above in the Axioms [202] that all the histories of the 
gentile nations have had fabulous beginnings, that among the Greeks (who 
have given us all we know of gentile antiquity) the first sages were the the- 
ological poets, and that the nature of everything born or made betrays the 
crudeness of its origin. It is thus and not otherwise that we must conceive the 
origins of poetic wisdom. And as for the great and sovereign esteem in which it 
has been handed down to us, this has its origin in the two conceits mentioned 
in the Axioms [125, 127], that of the nations on the one hand and that of the 
scholars on the other. And it springs even more from the latter than from the 
former. For just as Manetho, the Egyptian high priest, translated all the fabulous 
history of Egypt into a sublime natural theology, as we have said in the Axioms 
[222], so the Greek philosophers translated theirs into philosophy. And they 
did so not merely for the reason that, as we have seen above in the Axioms [221 ], 
to both alike the histories that had come down to them were disgusting, but for 
the following five reasons as well. 

362 The first was reverence for religion, for the gentile nations were 
everywhere founded by fables on religion. The second was the grand effect 
thence derived of this civil world, so wisely ordered that it could only be the 
effect of a superhuman wisdom. The third was the occasions which, as we shall 
see, these fables, assisted by the veneration of religion and the credit of such great 
wisdom, gave the philosophers for instituting research and for meditating lofty 
things in philosophy. The fourth was the ease with which they were thus en- 
abled, as we shall also show farther on, to explain their sublime philosophical 
meditations by means of the expressions happily left them by the poets. The 
fifth and last, which is the sum of them all, is the confirmation of their own 
meditations which the philosophers derived from the authority of religion and 
the wisdom of the poets. Of these five reasons, the first two and the last contain 
the praises of the divine wisdom which ordained this world of nations, and the 
witness the philosophers bore to it even in their errors. The third and fourth are 
deceptions permitted by divine providence, that thence there might arise philos- 


ophers to understand and recognize it for what it truly is, an attribute of the 
true God. 

363 Throughout this book it will be shown that only so much as the poets 
had first sensed of vulgar wisdom did the philosophers later understand of 
esoteric wisdom; so that the former may be said to have been the sense and the 
latter the intellect of the human race. What Aristotle said of the individual 
man is therefore true of the race in general: Nihil cst in intcllectu quin prius 
juerit in sensu. That is, the human mind does not understand anything of which 
it has had no previous impression (which our modern metaphysicians call "oc- 
casion") from the senses. Now the mind uses the intellect when, from something 
it senses, it gathers something which does not fall under the senses; and this is 
the proper meaning of the Latin verb intelligere. 



364 Now, before discussing poetic wisdom, it is necessary for us to see 
what wisdom in general is. Wisdom is the faculty which commands all the dis- 
ciplines by which we acquire all the sciences and arts that make up humanity. 
Plato defines wisdom as "the perfecter of man." Man, in his proper being as 
man, consists of mind and spirit, or, if we prefer, of intellect and will. It is the 
function of wisdom to fulfill both these parts in man, the second by way of 
the first, to the end that by a mind illuminated by knowledge of the highest 
things the spirit may be led to choose the best. The highest things in the uni- 
verse are those turned toward and conversant with God; the best are those which 
look to the good of all mankind. The former are called divine things, the latter 
human. True wisdom, then, should teach the knowledge of divine things in 
order to conduct human things to the highest good. We believe that this was 
the foundation on which Marcus Terentius Varro, who earned the title "most 
learned of the Romans," erected his great work on things divine and human 
[his Antiquitates], of which the injustice of time has unhappily bereft us. We 
shall treat of these things in the present book so far as the weakness of our educa- 
tion and the meagerness of our erudition permit. 

365 Wisdom among the gentiles began with the Muse defined by Homer 
in a golden passage of the Odyssey [VIII, 63] as "knowledge of good and evil," 
and later called divination. It was on the natural prohibition of this practice, as 
something naturally denied to man, that God founded the true religion of the 
Hebrews, from which our Christian religion arose, as set forth in one of the 
Axioms [167] /The Muse must thus have been properly at first the science of 


divining by auspices, and this, as stated in the Axioms [342], was the vulgar 
wisdom of all nations, of which we shall have more to say presently. It consisted 
in contemplating God under the attribute of his providence, whereby from 
divinari his essence came to be called divinity. We shall see presently that the 
theological poets, who certainly founded the humanity of Greece, were versed 
in this wisdom, and this explains why the Latins called the judicial astrologers 
"professors of wisdom." Wisdom was later attributed to men renowned for use- 
ful counsels given to mankind, as in the case of the Seven Sages of Greece. The 
attribution was afterwards extended to men who for the good of peoples and 
nations wisely ordered and governed commonwealths. Still later the word wis- 
dom came to mean knowledge of natural divine things; that is, metaphysics, 
called for that reason divine science, which, seeking knowledge of man's mind 
in God, and recognizing God as the source of all truth, must recognize him as 
the regulator of all good. So that metaphysics must essentially work for the 
good of the human race, whose preservation depends on the universal belief 
in a provident divinity. It is perhaps for having demonstrated this providence 
that Plato deserved to be called divine; and that which denies to God this great 
attribute must be called stupidity rather than wisdom. Finally among the He- 
brews, and thence among us Christians, wisdom was called the science of eternal 
things revealed by God; a science which, among the Tuscans, considered as 
knowledge of the true good and true evil, perhaps owed to that fact the first 
name they gave it, "science in divinity." 

366 We must therefore distinguish more truly than Varro did the three 
kinds of theology. First, poetic theology, that of the theological poets, which 
was the civil theology of all the gentile nations. Second, natural theology, that 
of the metaphysicians. Third, our Christian theology, a mixture of civil and 
natural with the loftiest revealed theology; all three united in the contemplation 
of divine providence. (Our third kind takes the place of Varro's poetic the- 
ology, which among the gentiles was the same as civil theology, though he dis- 
tinguished it from both civil and natural theology because, sharing the vulgar 
common error that the fables contained high mysteries of sublime philosophy, 
he believed it to be a mixture of both.) Divine providence has so conducted hu- 
man affairs that, starting from the poetic theology which regulated them by cer- 
tain sensible signs believed to be divine counsels sent to men by the gods, and 
by means of the natural theology which demonstrates providence by eternal 
reasons which do not fall under the senses, the nations were disposed to receive 
revealed theology in virtue of a supernatural faith, superior not only to the 
senses but to human reason itself. 



367 But because metaphysics is the sublime science which distributes 
their determinate subject matters to all the so-called subaltern sciences; and be- 
cause the wisdom of the ancients was that of the theological poets, who without 
doubt were the first sages of the gentile world, as we have established in the 
Axioms [199]; and because the origins of all things must by nature have been 
crude: for all these reasons we must trace the beginnings of poetic wisdom to a 
crude metaphysics. From this, as from a trunk, there branch out from one limb 
logic, morals, economics and politics, all poetic; and from another physics, the 
mother of their cosmography and hence of astronomy, which gives their cer- 
tainty to its two daughters, chronology and geography, all likewise poetic. We 
shall show clearly and distinctly how the founders of gentile humanity by 
means of their natural theology (or metaphysics) imagined the gods; how by 
means of their logic they invented languages; by morals, created heroes; by 
economics, founded families, and by politics, cities; by their physics, established 
the beginnings of things as all divine; by the particular physics of man, in a cer- 
tain sense created themselves; by their cosmography, fashioned for themselves 
a universe entirely of gods; by astronomy, carried the planets and constellations 
from earth to heaven; by chronology, gave a beginning to [measured] times; 
and how by geography the Greeks, for example, described the [whole] world 
within their own Greece. 

368 Thus our Science comes to be at once a history of the ideas, the 
customs, and the deeds of mankind. From these three we shall derive the prin- 
ciples of the history of human nature, which we shall show to be the principles 
of universal history, which principles it seems hitherto to have lacked. 



369 The founders of gentile humanity must have been men of the races 
of Ham, Japheth and Shem, which gradually, one after the other, renounced 
that true religion of their common father Noah which alone in the family 
state had beea able to hold them in human society by the bonds of matrimony 


and hence of the families themselves. As a result of this renunciation, they dis- 
solved their marriages and broke up their families by promiscuous intercourse, 
and began roving wild through the great forest of the earth. The race of Ham 
wandered through southern Asia, Egypt and the rest of Africa; that of Japheth 
through northern Asia or Scythia, and thence through Europe; and that of 
Shem through all middle Asia toward the east. By fleeing from the wild beasts 
with which the great forest must have abounded, and by pursuing women, who 
in that state must have been wild, indocile and shy, they became separated from 
each other in their search for food and water. Mothers abandoned their chil- 
dren, who in time must have come to grow up without ever hearing a human 
voice, much less learning any human custom, and thus descended to a state 
truly bestial and savage. Mothers, like beasts, must merely have nursed their 
babies, let them wallow naked in their own filth, and abandoned them for good 
as soon as they were weaned. And these children, who had to wallow in their 
own filth, whose nitrous salts richly fertilized the fields, and who had to exert 
themselves to penetrate the great forest, grown extremely dense from the flood, 
would flex and contract their muscles in these exertions, and thus absorb nitrous 
salts into their bodies in greater abundance. They would be quite without that 
fear of gods, fathers and teachers which chills and benumbs even the most ex- 
uberant in childhood. They must therefore have grown robust, vigorous, ex- 
cessively big in brawn and bone, to the point of becoming giants. This upbring- 
ing of theirs was even more savage than that to which, as noted above in the 
Axioms [170], Caesar and Tacitus ascribe the gigantic stature of the ancient 
Germans; from which was derived that of the Goths whom Procopius mentions, 
and which was like that of the Patagonians supposed to exist today near the 
strait of Magellan. Philosophers in physics have spoken much nonsense on this 
subject, collected by Chassagnon, who wrote De gigantibus. Of such giants there 
have been found and are still being found, for the most part in the mountains 
(a circumstance with an important bearing on what we have to say below), great 
skulls and bones of an unnatural size which is further exaggerated by vulgar 
tradition for reasons of which we shall speak in their proper place. 

370 Such giants were scattered over the earth after the flood. We have 
seen them in the fabulous history of the Greeks, and the Latin philologians, with- 
out being aware of it, have told us of their existence in the ancient history of 
Italy, where they say that the most ancient peoples of Italy, the so-called 
aborigines, claimed to be autochthones, which is as much as to say "sons of 
Earth," which among the Greeks and Latins meant nobles. And in the fables 
the Greeks quite properly called the sons of earth giants, and the Earth mother 
of giants. The Greek term autochthones should be rendered in Latin indigenac, 
that is, properly, those born of a land; thus the native gods of a people or na- 
tion were called dii indigctcs, as if inde gcniti, or, as we should say more shortly 
today, ingcniti. For the syllable de is one of the redundancies of the first lan- 
guages of the peoples which we shall discuss later. Thus among the Latins we 


find induperator for imperator, and in the Law of the Twelve Tables endoiacito 
for iniicito, whence perhaps it came that armistices were called induciae, as if 
iniiciac, because they must have been so called from iccre foedus, to make a pact 
of peace. So, in the case in hand, from indigent was derived ingenui, whose first 
and proper meaning was "noble" (whence the term artes ingcnuae, "noble 
arts") but which finally came to mean "free" (though artes liberates kept the 
meaning "noble arts"). For nobles alone, as will shortly be demonstrated, com- 
posed the first cities, in which the plebeians were slaves or precursors of slaves. 
371 The same Latin philologians observe that all the ancient peoples 
were called aborigines, and sacred history tells us of whole peoples called cmim 
and zomzommim, which Hebrew scholars take to mean giants, one of whom 
was Nimrod; and the giants before the flood are described by Scripture as 
"brave, famous and powerful men of the age." The Hebrews, on account of 
their cleanly upbringing and their fear of God and of their fathers, continued to 
be of the proper stature in which God had created Adam and Noah had begotten 
his three sons; and it was perhaps in abomination of giantism that the Hebrews 
had so many ceremonial laws pertaining to bodily cleanliness. The Romans pre- 
served a great vestige of these laws in the public sacrifice intended to purge the 
city of all the sins of the citizens, which was performed with water and fire. 
Their solemn nuptials w6re also celebrated with water and fire, and participation 
in these two things was even the mark of citizenship, the deprivation of which 
was called mterdictum aqua et ignL The sacrifice with fire and water was called 
lustrum, which came to mean a period of five years because that was the interval 
between these sacrifices, much as among the Greeks an Olympiad meant a 
period of four years. But lustrum also meant a den of wild beasts, and the verb 
lustrari, "to seek out" or "to purge," must at first have meant to seek out these 
dens and purge them of the beasts lurking within; whence the water required 
for the sacrifice was called aqua lustralis. The Greeks began to count their years 
from the burning of the Nemean forest by Hercules to clear it for sowing grain, 
in commemoration of which, as we pointed out in the "Idea of the Work" 
[3] and as we shall see fully later, he founded the Olympiads. The Romans, with 
more discernment, began to count their years in lustra from the water of the 
sacred ablutions, because civilization began with water, the need of which was 
felt before that of fire, as appears from the formulas of marriage and the inter- 
dict, in which aqua comes before igni. This is the origin of the sacred ablu- 
tions which must precede sacrifices, a custom which was and is common to all 
nations. It was by becoming imbued with this cleanliness of body and this fear 
of gods and of fathers in both cases a fear we shall hnd amounting to terror 
in the earliest times that the giants diminished to our normal stature. It was 
perhaps for this reason that from politeia, which in Greek means "civil govern- 
ment," was derived the Latin politus, "clean" or "neat." 

372 This diminution of stature must have continued down to the human 
period of the nations, as is demonstrated by the excessively large weapons of 


the ancient heroes, which Augustus, according to Suetonius, preserved along 
with the bones and skulls of the ancient giants in his museum. Thus, as stated 
in the Axioms [172], the entire first world of men must be divided into two 
kinds: the first, men of normal size, which includes the Hebrews only; the 
second, giants, who were the founders of the gentile nations. Of the giants there 
were in turn two kinds: the first, the sons of Earth, or nobles, from whom, as 
being giants in the full sense of the term, the age of giants took its name, as we 
have said (and it is these whom sacred history defines as "strong, famous and 
powerful men of the age"); the second, less properly so called, those other giants 
who were subjugated [by the former]. 

373 The time at which the founders of the gentile nations reached this 
condition [of giantism] is fixed a century after the deluge for the race of Shem, 
and two centuries for those of Japheth and Ham, as postulated above [62]. 
Below, presently, will be given the physical history of this matter [387], which, 
though related to us in the Greek fables, has not hitherto been observed, and 
which at the same time will give us a new physical history of the universal 
flood [380]. 




374 From these first men, stupid, insensate and horrible beasts, all the 
philosophers and philologians should have begun their investigations of the 
wisdom of the ancient gentiles; that is, from the giants in the proper sense in 
which we have just taken them. (Father Boulduc in his De ecclesia ante Legem 
says the scriptural names of the giants signify "pious, venerable and illustrious 
men"; but this can be understood only of the noble giants who by divination 
founded the gentile religions and gave the age of giants its name.) And they 
should have begun with metaphysics, which seeks its proofs not in the external 
world but within the modifications of the mind of him who meditates it. For, 
as we have said above, since this world of nations has certainly been made by 
men, it is within these modifications that its principles should have been sought. 
And human nature, so far as it is like that of animals, carries with it this property, 
that the senses are its sole way of knowing things. 

375 Hence poetic wisdom, the first wisdom of the gentile world, must 
have begun with a metaphysic not rational and abstract like that of learned 
men now, but felt and imagined as that of these first men must have been, who, 
without power of ratiocination, were all robust sense and vigorous imagination, 
as established in the Axioms [185], This metaphysic was their poetry, a faculty 
born with them (for they were furnished by nature with these senses and 
imaginations); born of their ignorance of causes, for ignorance, the mother of 
wonder, made everything wonderful to men who were ignorant of everything, 
as noted in the Axioms [184]. Their poetry was at first divine, because they 
imagined the causes of the things they felt and wondered at to be gods, as we 
saw in the passage from Lactantius cited in the Axioms [188]. (This is now con- 
firmed by the American Indians, who call gods all the things that surpass their 


small understanding. We may add the ancient Germans dwelling about the 
Arctic Ocean, of whom Tacitus tells that they spoke of hearing the Sun pass 
at night from west to east through the sea, and affirmed that they saw the gods. 
These very rude and simple nations help us to a much better understanding of 
the founders of the gentile world with whom we are now concerned.) At the 
same time they gave the things they wondered at substantial being after their 
own ideas, just as children do, whom we see take inanimate things in their 
hands and play with them and talk to them as though they were living persons, 
as laid down in an axiom [186]. 

376 In such fashion the first men of the gentile nations, children of 
nascent mankind as we have styled them in the Axioms [209], created things 
according to their own ideas. But this creation was infinitely different from that 
of God. For God, in his purest intelligence, knows things, and, by knowing 
them, creates them; but they, in their robust ignorance, did it by virtue of a 
wholly corporeal imagination. And because it was quite corporeal, they did it with 
marvelous sublimity; a sublimity such and so great that it excessively perturbed 
the very persons who by feigning did the creating, for which they were called 
"poets," which is Greek for "makers." Now this is the threefold labor of great 
poetry: (i) to invent sublime fables suited to the popular understanding, (2) to 
perturb to excess, with a view to the end proposed: (3) to teach the vulgar to 
act virtuously, as the poets have taught themselves; as will presently be shown. 
Of this nature of human things there came an eternal property, expressed in a 
noble phrase of Tacitus: that frightened men vainly "no sooner feign than they 
believe" (fingunt simul creduntque [Annals V 10]). 

377 Of such natures must have been the first founders of gentile hu- 
manity when at last the sky fearfully rolled with thunder and flashed with 
lightning, as could not but follow from the bursting upon the air for the first 
time of an impression so violent. As we have postulated [62, 195], this occurred 
a hundred years after the flood in Mesopotamia and two hundred after it 
throughout the rest of the world; for it took that much time to reduce the earth 
to such a state that, dry of the moisture of the universal flood, it could send up 
dry exhalations or matter igniting in the air to produce lightning. Thereupon a 
few giants, who must have been the most robust, and who were dispersed 
through the forests on the mountain heights where the strongest beasts have 
their dens, were frightened and astonished by the great effect whose cause they 
did not know, and raised their eyes and became aware of the sky. And because 
in such a case, as stated in the Axioms [180], the nature of the human mind 
leads it to attribute its own nature to the effect, and because in that state their 
nature was that of men all robust bodily strength, who expressed their very 
violent passions by shouting and grumbling, they pictured the sky to themselves 
as a great animated body, which in that aspect they called Jove, the first god of 
the so-called gentes maiores, who by the whistling of his bolts and the noise of 
his thunder was attempting to tell them something, And thus they began to 


exercise that natural curiosity which is the daughter of ignorance and the mother 
of knowledge, and which, opening the mind of man, gives birth to wonder, as 
we have put it above in the Axioms [189]. This characteristic still persists in the 
vulgar, who, when they see a comet or sun-dog or some other extraordinary 
thing in nature, and particularly in the countenance of the sky, at once turn 
curious and anxiously inquire what it means, as we have it in an axiom [189], 
When they wonder at the prodigious effects of the magnet on iron, even in this 
age of minds enlightened and made erudite by philosophy, they come out with 
this: that the magnet has an occult sympathy for the iron; and they make of all 
nature a vast animate body which feels passions and effects, as we have noted in 
the Axioms [180]. 

378 But the nature of our civilized minds is so detached from the senses, 
even in the vulgar, by abstractions corresponding to all the abstract terms our 
languages abound in, and so refined by the art of writing, and as it were 
spiritualized by the use of numbers, because even the vulgar know how to count 
and reckon, that it is naturally beyond our power to form the vast image of this 
mistress called "Sympathetic Nature." Men shape the phrase with their lips but 
have nothing in their minds; for what they have in mind is falsehood, which is 
nothing; and their imagination no longer avails to form a vast false image. It is 
equally beyond our power .to enter into the vast imagination of those first men, 
whose minds were not in the least abstract, refined, or spiritualized, because they 
were entirely immersed in the senses, buffeted by the passions, buried in the 
body. That is why we said above [338] that we can scarcely understand, still 
less imagine, how those first men thought who founded gentile humanity. 

379 In this fashion the first theological poets created the first divine 
fable, the greatest they ever created: that of Jove, king and father of men and 
gods, in the act of hurling the lightning bolt; an image so popular, disturbing 
and instructive that its creators themselves believed in it, and feared, revered 
and worshiped it in frightful religions which we shall shortly describe. And 
by that trait of the human mind we found noticed by Tacitus in the Axioms 
[183], these men attributed to Jove all they saw, imagined or even did them- 
selves; and to all of the universe that came within their scope, to all its parts, 
they assigned the being of animate substance. This is the civil history of the 
expression "all things are full of Jove" (lovis omnia plena), by which Plato 
understood the ether which penetrates and fills the universe. But for the the- 
ological poets, as will shortly be seen, Jove was no higher than the mountain 
peaks. The first men, who spoke by signs, naturally believed that lightning bolts 
and thunder claps were signs made to them by Jove; whence from nuo, to make 
a sign, came numen, the divine will, by an idea more than sublime and worthy 
to express the divine majesty. They believed that Jove commanded by signs, 
that such signs were real words, and that nature was the language of Jove. The 
science of this language the gentiles universally believed to be divination, which 
by the Greeks was called theology, meaning the science of the language of the 


gods. Thus Jove acquired the fearful kingdom of the lightning and became the 
king of men and gods; and he acquired the two titles, that of best (optimus) 
in the sense of strongest (fortissimus) (as by a reverse process fortis meant in 
early Latin what bonus did in late), and that of greatest (maximus) from his 
vast body, the sky itself. For the first great mercy he showed mankind by not 
destroying it with his bolts, he received the title Soter or savior. (This is the 
first of the three principles we have taken for our Science.) And for having put 
an end to the feral wandering of these few giants, so that they became the 
princes of the gcntes, he received the epithet Stator, stayer or establisher. The 
Latin philologians explain this epithet too narrowly from Jove, invoked by 
Romulus, having stopped the Romans in their flight from the battle with the 

380 Thus the many Joves the philologians wonder at are so many physical 
histories preserved for us by the fables, which prove the universality of the 
flood, as we premised in the Axioms [194]. For every gentile nation had its Jove, 
and the Egyptians had the conceit to say that their Jove Ammon was the most 
ancient of them all, as was said above in the Axioms [62]. 

381 Thus, in accordance with what has been said in the Axioms [209] 
about the principles of the poetic characters, Jove was born naturally in poetry 
as a divine character or imaginative universal, to which everything having to do 
with the auspices was referred by all the ancient gentile nations, which must 
therefore all have been poetic by nature. Their poetic wisdom began with this 
poetic metaphysics, which contemplated God by the attribute of his providence; 
and they were called theological poets, or sages who understood the language of 
the gods expressed in the auspices of Jove; and were properly called divine in the 
sense of diviners, from divtnan, to "divine" or "predict." Their science was 
called Muse, defined above [365] by Homer as the knowledge of good and evil; 
that is, divination, on the prohibition of which God ordained his true religion 
for Adam, as was said in the Axioms [167]. Because they were versed in this 
mystic theology, the Greek poets, who explained the divine mysteries of the 
auspices and oracles, were called mystae, which Horace learnedly translates 
"interpreters of the gods." Every gentile nation had its own sybil versed in this 
science, and we find mention of twelve of them. Sybils and oracles are the most 
ancient things of the gentile world. 

382 All the things here discussed agree with that golden passage of 
Eusebius [i.e. Lactantius] referred to in the Axioms [188], where he speaks of 
the origins of idolatry: that the first people, simple and rough, invented the gods 
"from terror of present power." Thus it was fear which created gods in the 
world; but, as was remarked in the Axioms [191], not fear awakened in men 
by other men, but fear awakened in men by themselves. Along with this origin 
of idolatry is demonstrated likewise the origin of divination, which was brought 
into the world at the same birth. The origins of these two were followed by that 
of the sacrifices made to procure or rightly understand the auspices. 


383 That such was the origin of poetry is finally confirmed by this eternal 
property of it: that its proper material is the credible impossibility. It is impossible 
that bodies should be minds, yet it was believed that the thundering sky was Jove. 
And nothing is dearer to poets than singing the marvels wrought by sorceresses 
by means of incantations. All this is to be explained by a hidden sense the na- 
tions have of the omnipotence of God. From this sense springs another by 
which all, peoples are naturally led to do infinite honors to divinity. In this man- 
ner the poets founded religions among the gentiles. 

384 All that has been so far said here upsets all the theories of the origin 
of poetry from Plato and Aristotle down to Patrizzi, Scahger and Castelvetro. 
For it has been shown that it was deficiency of human reasoning power that 
gave rise to poetry so sublime that the philosophies which came afterwards, the 
arts of poetry and of criticism, have produced none equal or better, and have 
even prevented its production. Hence it is Homer's privilege to be, of all the 
sublime, that is, the heroic poets, the first in the order of merit as well as in that 
of age. This discovery of the origins of poetry does away with the opinion of the 
matchless wisdom of the ancients, so ardently sought after from Plato to Bacon's 
DC sapientia veterum. For the wisdom of the ancients was the vulgar wisdom of 
the lawgivers who founded the human race, not the esoteric wisdom of great 
and rare philosophers. Whence it will be found, as it has been in the case of Jove, 
that all the mystic meanings of lofty philosophy attributed by the learned to the 
Greek fables and the Egyptian hieroglyphics are as impertinent as the historical 
meanings they both must have had are natural. 



385 From what has been said up to this point it is concluded that divine 
providence, apprehended by such human sense as could have been possessed by 
rough, wild and savage men who in despair of nature's succors desired some- 
thing superior to nature to save them (which is the first principle on which we 
established the method of this Science), permitted them to be deceived into 
fearing the false divinity of Jove because he could strike them with lightning. 
Thus, through the thick clouds of those first tempests, intermittently lit by 
those flashes, they made out this great truth: that divine providence watches 
over the welfare of all mankind. So that this Science becomes, in this principal 
aspect a rational civil theology of divine providence, which began in the vulgar 


wisdom of the lawgivers who founded the nations by contemplating God under 
the attribute of providence, and which is completed by the esoteric wisdom of 
the philosophers who give a rational demonstration of it in their natural theology. 


386 Here begins also a philosophy of authority, a second principal aspect 
of this Science, taking the word authority in its original meaning of property. 
The word is always used in this sense in the Law of the Twelve Tables, and 
the term auctorcs was accordingly applied to those from whom we derive title 
to property. Auctor certainly comes from autos (-proprius or suus ipsius)\ 
many scholars write autor and autoritas, leaving out the aspirate. 

387 Authority was at first divine; the authority by which divinity ap- 
propriated to itself the few giants we have spoken of, by properly casting them 
into the depths and recesses of the caves under the mountains. This is the iron 
ring by which the giants, dispersed upon the mountains, were kept chained to 
the earth by fear of the sky and of Jove, wherever they happened to be when 
the sky first thundered. Such were Tityus and Prometheus, chained to a high 
rock with their hearts being devoured by an eagle, that is, by the religion of 
Jove's auspices. Their being rendered immobile by fear was expressed by the 
Latins in the heroic phrase terrore depxi, and the artists depict them chained 
hand and foot with such links upon the mountains. Of these links was formed 
the great chain which Dionysius Longinus admires as the highest sublimity in 
all the Homeric fables. Concerning this chain, Jove, to prove that he is king of 
men and gods, asserts that if all the gods and men were to take hold of one end, 
he alone at the other end would be able to drag them all. The Stoics would 
have the chain represent the eternal series of causes by which their Fate holds 
the world girdled and bound, but let them look out lest they be entangled in it 
themselves, because the dragging of men and gods by this chain depends on the 
will of Jove, yet they would have Jove subject to Fate. 

388 Upon this divine authority followed human authority in the full 
philosophic sense of the term, that is, the property of human nature which not 
even God can take from man without destroying him. It is in this sense that 
Terence speaks of voluptates proprias deorum, meaning that the felicity of God 
does not depend on others; and Horace of propriam virtutis laurum, meaning 
that the triumph of virtue cannot be taken away by envy; and Caesar of propriam 
vlctoriam, which Denis Petau erroneously considers bad Latin, whereas it is 
exceedingly elegant Latin for a victory which could not be snatched from his 
hands by the enemy. This authority is the free use of the will, the intellect on 
the other hand being a passive power subject to truth. For from this first point 
of all human things, men began to exercise the freedom of the human will to 
hold in check the motions of the body, either to subdue them entirely or to 
give them better direction (this being the impulse proper to free agents, as we 
have said above in the Method [340]). Hence it was that the giants gave up the 


bestial custom of wandering through the great forest of the earth and habituated 
themselves to the quite contrary custom of remaining settled and hidden for a 
long period in their caves. 

389 This authority of human nature was followed by the authority of 
natural law; for, having occupied and remained settled for a long time in the 
places where they chanced to find themselves at the time of the first thunderbolts, 
they became lords of them by occupation and long possession, the source of all 
dominion in the world. These are those "few whom just Jupiter loved" (pattci 
quos aequus amavit / luplter) [Vergil, Aeneid VI 129 f.], whom the philos- 
ophers later metamorphosed into men favored by God with natural aptitudes for 
science and virtue. But the historical significance of this phrase is that in the 
recesses and depths [of the caves] they became the princes of the so-called gentes 
maiorcs, who counted Jove the first god, as noted in the Axioms [317]. As will 
be shown later, these were the ancient noble houses, branching out into many 
families, of which the first kingdoms and the first cities were composed. Their 
memory was preserved in those fine heroic Latin phrases: condere gentes, con- 
dere regna, condere urbes; jundare gentes, jundare regna, jundare urbes. 

390 This philosophy of authority follows the rational civil theology of 
providence because by means of the former's theological proofs the latter with its 
philosophical ones makes clear and distinct the philological ones (all three kinds 
of proofs being enumerated in the Method); and with reference to the things of 
the most obscure antiquity of the nations it reduces to certitude the human will, 
which is by its nature most uncertain, as noted in the Axioms [141]. Which is 
as much as to say that it reduces philology to the form of a science. 


391 The third principal aspect is a history of human ideas. These, as we 
have just seen, began with divine ideas by way of contemplation of the heavens 
with the bodily eyes. Thus in their science of augury the Romans used the verb 
contemplari for observing the parts of the sky whence the auguries came or the 
auspices were taken. These regions, marked out by the augurs with their wands, 
were called "temples of the sky" (tern f la coeli), whence must have come to the 
Greeks their first theoremata and mathemata, things divine or sublime to con- 
template, which eventuated in metaphysical and mathematical abstractions. This 
is the civil history of the saying "From Jove the Muse began" (A love principium 
musae [Vergil, Bucohca, III 60]). For we have just seen that Jove's bolts pro- 
duced the first muse, which Homer defines as "knowledge of good and evil." 
At this point it was all too easy for the philosophers later to intrude the dictum 
that the beginning of wisdom is piety. The first muse must have been Urania, 
who contemplated the heavens to take the auguries. Later she came to stand for 
astronomy, as will presently be shown. Just as poetic metaphysics was above 
divided into all fts subordinate sciences, each sharing the poetic nature of their 
mother, so this history of ideas will present the rough origins both of the prac- 


tical sciences in use among the nations and of the speculative sciences which, 
now refined, are celebrated by the learned. 


392 The fourth aspect is a philosophical criticism which grows out of 
the aforesaid history of ideas. Such a criticism will render true judgment upon 
the founders of the nations, which must have taken well over a thousand years 
to produce the writers who are the subjects of philological criticism. Beginning 
with Jove, our philosophical criticism will give us a natural theogony or genera- 
tion of the gods as it took form naturally in the minds of the founders of the 
gentile world, who were by nature theological poets. The twelve gods of the 
so-called gentes maiorcs, the ideas of whom were imagined by them from time 
to time on certain occasions of human necessity or utility, are assigned to 
twelve short epochs, into which we divide the period in which the fables were 
born. Thus this natural theogony will give us a rational chronology of poetic 
history for at least nine hundred years before vulgar history (which came after 
the heroic period) had its first beginnings. 


393 The fifth aspect is an ideal eternal history traversed in time by the 
histories of all nations. Wherever, emerging from savage, fierce and bestial 
times, men begin to domesticate themselves by religion, they begin, proceed and 
end by those stages which are investigated in this second book, to be encountered 
again in the fourth book, where we treat the course the nations run, and in the 
fifth, where we treat the recurrence of human things. 


394 The sixth is a system of the natural law of nations. The three princes 
of this doctrine, Hugo Grotius, John Selden and Samuel Pufendorf, should have 
taken their start, by one of the Axioms above laid down [314], from the begin- 
nings of the nations, where their subject matter begins. But al) three of them 
err together in this respect, by beginning in the middle; that is, with the latest 
times of the civilized nations (and thus of men enlightened by fully developed 
natural reason) from which the philosophers emerged and rose to meditation 
of a perfect idea of justice. 

395 First Grotius, just because of the great love he bears the truth, sets 
aside divine providence and professes that his system will stand even if all knowl- 
edge of God be left out of account. Thus all the reproofs which in a great num- 
ber of matters he brings against the Roman jurists, do not touch them at all, 
since they took divine providence for their first principle and proposed to treat 
of the natural law of nations, not that of the philosophers and moral theologians. 

396 Then Selden assumes providence, but without paying any attention 
to the inhospitableness of the first peoples, or to the division the people of God 


made of the whole world of nations at that time into Hebrews and gentiles. Or 
to the fact that, since the Hebrews had lost sight of their natural law during 
their slavery in Egypt, God himself must have reestablished it for them by the 
law he gave Moses on Sinai. Or to the further fact that God in his law forbids 
even thoughts that are less than just, with which no mortal lawgiver has ever 
troubled himself. Or to the bestial origins here discussed of all the gentile na- 
tions. And although he pretends that the Jews presently taught their natural 
law to the gentiles, he is entirely unable to prove it, opposed as he is by the 
magnanimous confession of Josephus seconded by the grave reflection of Lac- 
tantius cited above, and by the hostility with which, as we have also observed 
above, the Jews have always regarded the gentiles, and which they preserve 
even now when dispersed among all the nations. 

397 And finally Pufendorf begins with an Epicurean hypothesis, sup- 
posing man to have been cast into this world without any help or care from 
God. Reproved for this, he defends himself in a special dissertation, but, because 
he does not admit providence as his first principle, he cannot even begin to 
speak of law, as we have heard Cicero tell Atticus the Epicurean in his dialogue 
De legibus. 

398 For all these reasons, we begin our treatment of law the Latin for 
which is ius t contraction of the ancient lous at this most ancient point of all 
times, at the moment when the idea of Jove was born in the minds of the 
founders of the nations. To the Latin derivation of ius from lous there is a strik- 
ing parallel in Greek; for, as by a happy chance we find Plato observing in the 
Cratylus, the Greeks called law at first diaion. This means "pervasive" or "en- 
during" by a philosophical etymology intruded by Plato himself, whose erudite 
mythology makes Jove the ether which penetrates and flows through all things. 
But the historical derivation of dia'ton is from Jove, whom the Greeks called 
Dlos, whence the Latin expression sub dio, which, equally with sub love, means 
"under the open sky." For the sake of euphony, diaion came later to be pro- 
nounced difoion. This then is our point of departure for the discussion of law, 
which was originally divine, in the proper sense expressed by divination, the 
science of Jove's auspices, which were the divine things by which the nations 
regulated all human things. These two classes of things taken together make up 
the adequate subject matter of jurisprudence. Thus our treatment of natural 
law begins with the idea of divine providence, in the same birth with which 
was born the idea of law. For law began naturally to be observed, in the man- 
ner examined above, by the founders of the gcntcs properly so called, those of 
the most ancient order, which were called gentes maiores, whose first god was 


399 Thi seventh and last of the principal aspects of this Science is that 
of the principles of universal history. It begins with this first moment of all 


human things of the gentile world, with the first of the three ages of the world 
which the Egyptians said had elapsed before them; namely, the age of the gods, 
in which Heaven began to reign on earth and to bestow great benefits on men, 
as noted in the Axioms [64], This is the golden age of the Greeks, in which the 
gods consorted with men on earth, as we have seen Jove begin to do. Starting 
with this first age of the world, the Greek poets in their fables have faithfully 
narrated the universal flood and the existence of giants in nature, and thus have 
truly narrated the beginnings of profane universal history. Yet [this history has 
hitherto lacked beginning for the following reasons.] Later men were unable to 
enter into the imaginations of the first men who founded the gentile world, 
which made them think they saw the gods. The verb atterrare was no longer 
understood in its proper sense, "to send underground/' The giants who lived 
hidden in the caves under the mountains were metamorphosed in the later 
traditions of overcredulous peoples, and were supposed to have piled Olympus, 
Pelion and Ossa one on top of the other to drive the gods from heaven. Actually, 
the first impious giants not only did not fight the gods but were not even aware 
of them until Jove hurled his bolts. And whereas heaven was raised to an enor- 
mous height by the much more developed minds of later Greeks, to the first 
giants it was but the mountain summits, as we shall presently show. The fable 
above mentioned [of the giants storming heaven] must have been invented 
after Homer and fastened on him by interpolation in the Odyssey [XI 313 ff.]; 
for in his time merely to shake Olympus would have sufficed to dislodge the gods, 
since in the Iliad he always represents them as residing on the summit of Mount 
Olympus. For all these reasons profane universal history has hitherto lacked its 
beginning, and, for lack of the rational chronology of poetic history, it has lacked 
its continuity as well. 





400 That which is metaphysics insofar as it contemplates things in all 
the forms of their being, is logic insofar as it considers things in all the forms by 
which they may be signified. Accordingly, as poetry has been considered by us 
above as a poetic metaphysics in which the theological poets imagined bodies 
to be for the most part divine substances, so now that same poetry is considered 
as poetic logic, by which it signifies them. 

401 The word logic comes from logos, whose first and proper meaning 
was jabula, "fable," carried over into Italian as favella, "speech." In Greek the 
fable was also called mythos, "myth," whence comes the Latin mutus, "mute." 
For speech was born in mute times as mental [or sign] language, which Strabo 
in a golden passage says existed before vocal or articulate [language]; whence 
logos means both "word" and "idea." It was fitting that the matter should be 
so ordered by divine providence in religious times, for it is an eternal property 
of religions that they attach more importance to meditation than to speech. 
Thus, as stated in the Axioms [225], the first language in the first mute times 
of the nations must have begun with signs, whether gestures or physical objects, 
which had natural relations to the ideas [to be expressed]. For this reason 
logos or "word" meant also "deed" to the Hebrews and "thing" to the Greeks, 
as Thomas Gataker observes in his De instrument! stylo. Similarly, mythos 
came to be defined for us as vera narratio or "true speech," the natural speech 
which first Plato and then lamblichus said had been spoken in the world at one 
time. But this was mere conjecture on their part, as we saw in the Axioms [227], 
and Plato's effort to recover this speech in the Cratylus was therefore vain, and 
he was criticized for it by Aristotle and Galen. For that first language, spoken 
by the theological poets, was not a language in accord with the nature of the 
things it dealt with (as must have been the sacred language invented by Adam, 


to whom God granted divine onomathesia, the giving of names to things accord- 
ing to the nature of each), but was a fantastic speech making use of physical 
substances endowed with life and most of them imagined to be divine. 

402 This is the way in which the theological poets apprehended Jove, 
Cybele or Berecynthia, and Neptune, for examples, and, at first mutely point- 
ing, explained them as substances of the sky, the earth and the sea, which they 
imagined to be animate divinities and were therefore true to their senses in be- 
lieving them to be gods. By means of these three divinities, in accordance with 
what we have said above concerning poetic characters, they explained every- 
thing appertaining to the sky, the earth and the sea. And similarly by means of 
the other divinities they signified the other kinds of things appertaining to 
each, denoting all flowers for instance by Flora, and all fruits by Pomona. We 
nowadays reverse this practice in respect of spiritual things, such as the faculties 
of the human mind, the passions, virtues, vices, sciences and arts; for the most 
part the ideas we form of them are so many feminine personifications, to which 
we refer all the causes, properties and effects that severally appertain to them. 
For when we wish to give utterance to our understanding of spiritual things, we 
must seek aid from our imagination to explain them and, like painters, form 
human images of them. But these theological poets, unable to make use of the 
understanding, did the opposite and more sublime thing: they attributed senses 
and passions, as we saw not long since, to bodies, and to bodies as vast as sky, 
sea and earth. Later, as these vast imaginations shrank and the power of ab- 
straction grew, the same objects were apprehended by diminutive signs. 
Metonymy erected into dogma the prevailing ignorance of these origins of human 
things, which have remained buried until now. Jove becomes so small and light 
that he is flown about by an eagle. Neptune rides the waves in a fragile chariot. 
And Cybele rides seated on a lion. 

403 Thus the mythologies, as their name indicates, must have been the 
proper languages of the fables; the fables being imaginative class-concepts, as 
we have shown, the mythologies must have been the allegories corresponding 
to them. Allegory, as observed in the Axioms [210], is defined as diver silo quium 
insofar as, by identity not of proportion but (to speak scholastically) of predica- 
bility, allegories signify the diverse species or the diverse individuals comprised 
under these genera. So that they must have a univocal signification connoting a 
quality common to all their species and individuals (as Achilles connotes an 
idea of valor common to all strong men, or Ulysses an idea of prudence common 
to all wise men); such that these allegories must be the etymologies of the poetic 
languages, which would make their origins all univocal, whereas those of the 
vulgar languages arc more often analogous. We also have the definition of the 
word etymology itself as meaning veriloquium, just as fable was defined as vcra 





404 All the first tropes are corollaries of this poetic logic. The most 
luminous and therefore the most necessary and frequent is metaphor. It is most 
praised when it gives sense and passion to insensate things, in accordance with 
the metaphysics above discussed, by which the first poets attributed to bodies 
the being of animate substances, with capacities measured by their own, namely 
sense and passion, and in this way made fables of them. Thus every metaphor so 
formed is a fable in brief. This gives a basis for judging the time when meta- 
phors made their appearance in the languages. All the metaphors conveyed by 
likenesses taken from bodies to signify the operations of abstract minds must 
date from times when philosophies were taking shape. The proof of this is that 
in every language the terms needed for the refined arts and recondite sciences are 
of rustic origin. 

405 It is noteworthy that in all languages the greater part of the expres- 
sions relating to inanimate things are formed by metaphor from the human body 
and its parts and from the human senses and passions. Thus, head for top or 
beginning; eyes for the looped heads of screws and for windows letting light 
into houses; mouth for any opening; lip for the rim of a vase or of anything 
else; the tooth of a plow, a rake, a saw, a comb; beard for rootlets; the mouth 
of a river; a neck of land; handful for a small number; heart for center (the 
Latins used umbilicus, "navel," in this sense); foot for end; the flesh of fruits; a 
vein of water, rock or mineral; the blood of grapes for wine; the bowels of the 
earth. 1 Heaven or the sea smiles; the wind whistles; the waves murmur; a body 
groans under a great weight. The farmers of Latium used to say the fields were 
thirsty, bore fruit, were swollen with grain; and our own rustics speak of plants 
making love, vines going mad, resinous trees weeping. Innumerable other ex- 
amples could be collected from all languages. All of which is a consequence of 
our axiom [120] that man in his ignorance makes himself the rule of the uni- 
verse, for in the examples cited he has made of himself an entire world. So that, 
as rational metaphysics teaches that man becomes all things by understanding 
them (homo intelligendo fit omnia), this imaginative metaphysics shows that 
man becomes alj things by not understanding them (homo non intelligendo fit 

1 Several of Vico's examples for which there are no English equivalents are here omitted. 


omma)\ and perhaps the latter proposition is truer than the former, for when 
man understands he extends his mind and takes in the things, but when he does 
not understand he makes the things out of himself and becomes them by trans- 
forming himself into them. 


406 In such a logic, sprung from such a metaphysics, the first poets must 
have given names to things from the most particular and the most sensible ideas. 
Such ideas are the sources, respectively, of synecdoche and metonymy. Metonymy 
of agent for act resulted from the fact that names for agents were commoner 
than names for acts. Metonymy of subject for form and accident was due to the 
fact that, as we have said in the Axioms [209], they did not know how to ab- 
stract forms and qualities from subjects. Certainly metonymy of cause for effect 
produced in each case a little fable, in which the cause was imagined as a woman 
clothed with her effects: ugly Poverty, sad Old Age, pale Death. 


407 Synecdoche developed into metaphor as particulars were elevated into 
universals or parts united with the other parts together with which they make 
up their wholes. Thus the term "mortals" was originally and properly applied 
only to men, as the only beings whose mortality there was any occasion to 
notice. The use of "head' for man or person, so frequent in vulgar Latin, was 
due to the fact that in the forests only the head of a man could be seen from a 
distance. The word "man" itself is abstract, comprehending as in a philosophic 
genus the body and all its parts, the mind and all its faculties, the spirit and all 
its dispositions. In the same way, ttgnum and culmen, "log" and "top," came to 
be used with entire propriety when thatching was the practice for rafter and 
thatch; and later, with the adornment of cities, they signified all the materials 
and trim of a building. Again, tectum, "roof," came to mean a whole house 
because in the first times a covering sufficed for a house. Similarly, puppis, 
"poop," for a ship, because it was the highest part and therefore the first to be 
seen by those on shore; as in the returned barbarian times a ship was called a 
sail. Similarly, mucro, "point," for sword, because it is an abstract word and as 
in a genus comprehends pummel, hilt, edge and point; it was the point they felt 
which aroused their fear. Similarly, the material for the formed whole, as iron 
for sword, because they did not know how to abstract the form from the mate- 
rial. That bit of synecdoche and metonymy, Tertia messis erat, "it was the third 
harvest," was doubtless born of a natural necessity, for it took more than a thou- 
sand years for the astronomical term "year" to arise among the nations; and 
even now the Florentine peasantry say "we have reaped so many times" when 
they mean "so many years." And that knot of two synecdoches and a metonymy, 
Post aliquot, mca regna vidcns, mirabor, aristas? ("After a few harvests shall I 
wonder at seeing my kingdoms?"), betrays only too well the poverty of cxprcs- 


sion of the first rustic times, in which the phrase "so many ears of wheat" even 
more particular than harvests was used for "so many years." And because of 
the excessive poverty of the expression, the grammarians have assumed an ex- 
cess of art behind it. 


408 Irony certainly could not have begun until the period of reflection, 
because it is fashioned of falsehood by dint of a reflection which wears the 
mask of truth. Here emerges a great principle of human things, confirming the 
origin of poetry disclosed in this work: that since the first men of the gentile 
world had the simplicity of children, who are truthful by nature, the first fables 
could not feign anything false; they must therefore have been, as they have been 
defined above, true narrations. 

409 From all this it follows that all the tropes (and they arc all reducible 
to the four types above discussed), which have hitherto been considered ingenious 
inventions of writers, were necessary modes of expression of all the first poetic 
nations, and had originally their full native propriety. But these expressions of 
the first nations later became figurative when, with the further development of 
the human mind, words were invented which signified abstract forms or genera 
comprising their species or relating parts with their wholes. And here begins the 
overthrow of two common errors of the grammarians: that prose speech is 
proper speech, and poetic speech improper; and that prose speech came first, 
and afterwards speech in verse. 


410 Poetic monsters and metamorphoses arose from a necessity of this 
first human nature, its inability, as shown in the Axioms [209], to abstract forms 
or properties from subjects. By their logic they had to put subjects together in 
order to put their forms together, or to destroy a subject in order to separate its 
primary form from the contrary form which had been imposed upon it. Such 
a putting together of ideas created the poetic monsters. In Roman law, as 
Antoine Favre observes in his lurisprudentiac papinianeac scientia, children 
born of prostitutes are called monsters because they have the nature of men to- 
gether with the bestial characteristic of having been born of vagabonds or of 
casual unions. Of such sort we shall find those monsters to have been (children 
born of noble women without benefit of solemn nuptials) whom the Law of the 
Twelve Tables commanded to be thrown into the Tiber. 


411 The* distinguishing of ideas produced metamorphoses. Among other 
examples preserved by ancient jurisprudence is the heroic Latin phrase fundum 


fieri, used in place of autorcm fieri; the explanation being that, as the ground 
supports the farm or soil and that which is sown, planted or built thereon, so 
the approver supports the act, which without his approbation would fail; and he 
does this by quitting the form of a being moving at will, which he is, and taking 
on the contrary form of a stable thing. 



412 The poetic speech which our poetic logic has helped us to under- 
stand continued for a long time into the historic period, much as great and 
rapid rivers continue far into the sea, keeping sweet the waters borne on by the 
force of their flow. We have cited in the Axioms [207] the statement of 
lambiichus that the Egyptians attributed to Hermes Trismegistus all their in- 
ventions useful to human life. And we confirmed this by another axiom [206]: 
that "children, by the ideas and names of the men, women and objects they have 
seen first, afterwards apprehend and name all the men, women and objects 
which have any resemblance or relation with the first." This we said was the 
great natural source of the poetic characters, with which the first peoples nat- 
urally thought and spoke. We also remarked in the Axioms [207-209] that, if 
lambiichus had reflected upon this nature of human things, bringing into rela- 
tion with it the habit of the ancient Egyptians which he himself reports, he 
would certainly not have injected into the mysteries of the vulgar wisdom of 
the Egyptians the sublime mysteries of his own Platonic wisdom. 

413 Now in view of this characteristic of children and this habit of the 
first Egyptians, we assert that poetic speech, in virtue of the poetic characters 
it employs, can yield many important discoveries concerning antiquity. 


414 Solon must have been a sage of vulgar wisdom, party leader of the 
plebs in the first times of the aristocratic commonwealth at Athens. This fact 
was indeed preserved by Greek history where it narrates that at first Athens was 
held by the optimates. In this work we shall show that such was universally 
the case in all the heroic commonwealths. The heroes or nobles, by a certain 
nature of theirs which they believed to be of divine origin, were led to say that 
the gods belonged to them, and consequently that the auspices of the gods were 
theirs also. By means of the auspices they kept within their own orders all the 
public and private rights of the heroic cities. To the plebeians, whom they be- 


lieved to be of best origin and consequently men without gods and hence 
without auspices, they conceded only the use of natural liberty. (This is a great 
principle of things that are discussed through almost the whole of the present 
work.) Solon, however, had admonished the plebeians to reflect upon them- 
selves and to realize that they were of like human nature with the nobles and 
should therefore be made equal with them in civil rights. Unless, indeed, Solon 
was [a poetic character for] the Athenian plebeians themselves, considered under 
this aspect [of knowing themselves and demanding their rights]. 

415 The ancient Romans must also have had such a Solon among them. 
For the plebeians in the heroic struggles with the nobles, as ancient Roman his- 
tory openly tells us, kept saying that the fathers of whom Romulus had com- 
posed the Senate (and from whom these patricians were descended) non esse 
caelo demissos; that is, that they did not have that divine origin of which they 
boasted, and that Jove was equal [just] to all. This is the civil history of the ex- 
pression, lupiter omnibus aequus, into which the learned later read the tenet 
that all minds are equal and that the differences they take on arise from differ- 
ences in the organization of their bodies and in their civil education. By this 
reflection the Roman plebeians began to achieve equality with the patricians in 
civil liberty, until they entirely changed the Roman commonwealth from an 
aristocratic to a popular form. We proposed this as a hypothesis in the Notes on 
the Chronological Table [104], in a theoretical discussion of the Pubhlian law; 
and we shall show that it occurred in fact not only in the Roman but in all the 
other ancient commonwealths. Both by reasons and by authority we shall demon- 
strate that the plebeians of the peoples universally, beginning with Solon's re- 
flection, changed the commonwealths from aristocratic to popular. 

416 Hence Solon was made the author of that celebrated saying, "Know 
thyself," which, because of the great civil utility it had had for the Athenian 
people, was inscribed in all the public places of the city. Later the learned 
preferred to regard it as having been intended for what it is, a great counsel re- 
specting metaphysical and moral things, and because of it Solon was reputed a 
sage in esoteric wisdom and made prince of the Seven Sages of Greece, In this 
way, because from this reflection there sprang up at Athens all the orders and 
laws that shape a democratic commonwealth, and because of the first peoples' 
habit of thinking in poetic characters, these orders and laws were all attributed 
by the Athenians to Solon, just as, by the Egyptians, all inventions useful to 
human civil life were attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. 


417 In the same way all the laws concerning the orders must have been 
attributed to Romulus. 



418 And to Numa, as many concerning sacred things and divine cere- 
monies, for which Roman religion was later conspicuous in its time of greatest 


419 To Tullus Hostilius, all the laws and orders of military discipline. 


420 To Servius Tullius, the census [tax] which is the basis of democratic 
commonwealths, and other laws in great number having to do with popular 
liberty, so that he was acclaimed by Tacitus as praecipuus sanctor legum, "chief 
ordainer of laws." For, as we shall show, the census was the basis in aristocratic 
commonwealths on which the plebeians obtained from the nobles the bonitary 
ownership of the fields, which gave them occasion later for creating the tribunes 
of the plebs to defend for them this part of natural liberty, and the tribunes 
gradually led them to the attainment of full civil liberty. Thus the census of 
Servius Tuliius, by affording the occasions and starting-points, developed into 
the census which was the basis of the Roman popular commonwealth. This was 
discussed by way of hypothesis in the notes on the Publilian law [111-113], and 
will later be shown to be true in fact. 


421 To Tarqumius Priscus, all the ensigns and devices with which the 
majesty of the Roman empire was later resplendent in the most illustrious times 
of Rome. 


422 In the same way there must have been interpolated in the Twelve 
Tables very many laws which will be shown to have been enacted in later times. 
And since (as was fully demonstrated in our Principles of Universal Law) 
the law of quiritary ownership when it was extended by the nobles to the 
plebeians was the first law to be inscribed on a public tablet (the sole purpose 
for which the decemvirs were created), all the laws making for equal liberty 
which were later inscribed on public tablets were attributed to the decemvirs be- 
cause of their aspect of popular liberty. Take as a test case Greek luxury in the 
matter of funerals. Since the decemvirs would not have taught it to the Romans 
by prohibiting it, the prohibition must have come after the Romans had adopted 
it. But that cannot have been until after the wars with the Tarentines and with 
Pyrrhus, in which their acquaintance with the Greeks began. This explains the 
fact observed by Cicero that this law translated into Latin the very words in 
which it had been conceived in Athens. 



423 It is the same with Draco, author of the laws written in blood at the 
time when, as noted above, Greek history tells us Athens was occupied by the 
optimates. This, as we shall presently see, was in the time of the heroic aristoc- 
racies, in which Greek history also tells us the Heraclids were scattered through 
all Greece, even into Attica (as we set forth above in the Chronological Table). 
They finally settled in the Peloponnesus and established their kingdom in Sparta, 
which will be shown to have been certainly an aristocratic commonwealth. Draco 
must have been one of the Gorgon's serpents nailed to the shield of Perseus, 
which will be found to signify the rule of the laws. This shield with the frightful 
penalties it bore turned to stone those who looked upon it; just as in sacred 
history similar laws were called leges sanguinls, laws of blood, because of the 
exemplary punishments they carried. Minerva, who was called Athena for rea- 
sons to be fully set forth below, armed herself with this shield. And among the 
Chinese, who write in hieroglyphics to this day, a dragon is the ensign of the 
civil power. It is something to wonder at that two nations so distant from each 
other in space and time should think and express themselves in the same poetic 
manner. For in all Greek history nothing else is told of this Draco. 


424 This discovery of the poetic characters confirms us in placing Aesop 
considerably earlier than the Seven Sages of Greece, as in the Notes to the 
Chronological Table [91] we promised to show in this place. For this philo- 
logical truth is confirmed for us by the following history of human ideas. The 
seven sages were admired because they began to impart precepts of morality 
or of civil doctrine in the form of maxims like the famous "Know thyself" of 
Solon, who was their prince. We have seen above that this was a precept of 
civil doctrine, later carried over into metaphysics and morals. But Aesop had 
previously imparted such counsels in the form of comparisons, which the poets 
had still earlier used to express themselves. And the order of human ideas is to 
observe the similarities of things first to express itself and later for purposes of 
proof. Proof, in turn, is first by example, for which a single likeness suffices^ 
and finally by induction, for which more are required. Socrates, father of all the 
sects of philosophers, introduced dialectic by induction, which Aristotle later 
perfected with the syllogism, which cannot proceed without a universal. But to 
undeveloped minds it suffices to present a single likeness in order to persuade 
them; as, by a single fable of the sort invented by Aesop, the worthy Menenius 
Agrippa reduced the rebellious Roman plebs to obedience. 

425 That Aesop was a poetic character of the socii or famuli of the 
heroes, is revealed to us with prophetic insight by the urbane Phaedrus in one 
of the prologs of his Fables: 


Attend me briefly while I now disclose 

How art of fable telling first arose. 

Unhappy slaves, in servitude confined, 

Dared not to their harsh masters show their mind, 

But under veiling of the fable's dress 

Contrived their thoughts and feelings to express, 

Escaping still their lords' affronted wrath. 

So Aesop did; I widen out his path, 2 

as is clearly confirmed for us by his fable of the lion's share. For the plebeians, 
as noted in the Axioms [259], were called socii of the heroic cities, and shared 
the hardships and dangers of war but not the spoils and the conquests. Hence 
Aesop was called a slave, because the plebeians, as will presently be shown, were 
famuli of the heroes. And he was represented as ugly, because civil beauty was 
considered to come only from solemnized marriages, and only the heroes con- 
tracted such marriages, as will also be shown. For the same reason Thersites was 
ugly, for he must have been a character of the plebeians who served the heroes 
in the Trojan war. He was beaten by Ulysses with the scepter of Agamemnon, 
just as the ancient Roman plebeians were beaten by the nobles with rods over 
their bare shoulders regium in morem, "in royal fashion," as Sallust puts it in 
St. Augustine's City of God until the Porcian law freed Roman shoulders from 
the rod. 

426 Such counsels, then, dictated by natural reason as useful to free civil 
life, must have been sentiments cherished by the plebs of the heroic cities. Aesop 
was made a poetic character of these plebs in this respect. Later, fables having to 
do with moral philosophy were ascribed to him, and he was turned into the 
first moral philosopher, just as Solon, who by his laws made Athens a free com- 
monwealth, was turned into a sage. And because Aesop counseled in fables, he 
was supposed to have lived before Solon, who counseled in maxims. These fables 
must have been conceived originally in heroic verse. There is a tradition that 
they were later conceived in iambic verse (which we shall later find the Greek 
peoples to have spoken). This is intermediate between heroic verse and prose. 
They were finally written in prose and have reached us in that form. 


427 In this way the later discoveries of esoteric wisdom were attributed 
to the first authors of vulgar wisdom; and [poetic characters like] Zoroaster in 
the East, Trismegistus in Egypt, Orpheus in Greece, Pythagoras in Italy, 

2 Nunc jabularum cur sit inventum genus, 
Brevt docebo. Servitus obnoxia, 
Quta, quae volebat, non audebat dicere, 
Affectus proprtos in jabcllas transtnltt. 
Aesopi illius semita jeciviam. . . . 


originally lawgivers, were finally believed to have been philosophers, as Con- 
fucius is today in China. For certainly the Pythagoreans in Magna Graecia, as 
will later be shown, were so called in the sense of nobles who, having tried to 
reduce all their commonwealths from popular to aristocratic, were all slain. And 
the Carmen aureum of Pythagoras has been shown above [128] to have been 
an imposture, as were also the Oracles of Zoroaster, the Poimander of Trismegis- 
tus, and the Or p hies or verses of Orpheus. There did not come down to the 
ancients any book on philosophy written by Pythagoras, and Philolaus was the 
first Pythagorean to write one, as Scheffer observes in his De philosophia italica. 






428 Now from the theology of the poets, or poetic metaphysics, by way 
of the poetic logic sprung from it, we go on to discover the origin of languages 
and letters. Concerning these there are as many opinions as there are scholars 
who have written on the subject. So that Gerard Jan Vossius says in his Gram- 
matical "With regard to the invention of letters, many authors have brought 
together many things, in such profusion and confusion that you go away from 
them more uncertain than you came." And Herman Hugo in his De prima 
scribendi origine observes: "There is no other subject on which more numerous 
or more conflicting opinions are to be found than in the discussion of the origin 
of letters and writing. How many conflicts of opinion! What is one to believe? 
What not believe?" Not without reason, therefore, did Bernard von Mallinckrodt, 
in his De natura et usu literarum, conclude from the impossibility of understand- 
ing how they arose that they were divine inventions; in which view he was fol- 
lowed by Ingewald Eling in his Historia linguae graecae. 

429 But the difficulty as to the manner of their origin was created by the 
scholars themselves, all of whom regarded the origin of letters as a separate 
question from that of the origin of languages, whereas the two were by nature 
conjoined. And they should have made out as much from the words for grammar 
and for characters. From the former, because grammar is defined as the art of 
speaking, yet grammata are letters, so that grammar should have been defined 
as the art of writing. So, indeed, it was defined by Aristotle, and so in fact it 
originally was; for, as will here be shown, all nations began to speak by writing, 


since all were originally mute. The word character, on the other hand, means 
idea, form, model, and certainly poetic characters came before those of articu- 
late sounds. Josephus stoutly maintains, against the Greek grammarian Apion, 
that at the time of Homer the so-called vulgar letters had not yet been invented. 
Moreover, if these letters had been forms representing articulated sounds instead 
of being arbitrary signs, they would have been uniform among all nations, as 
the articulated sounds themselves are. But, giving up hope of knowing how 
languages and letters began, scholars have failed to learn that the first nations 
thought in poetic characters, spoke in fables, and wrote in hieroglyphics. These 
should have been the principles, which must by their nature be most certain, of 
philosophy in its study of human ideas and of philology in its study of human 

430 Having now to enter upon a discussion of this matter, we shall give 
a brief sample of the opinions that have been held respecting it opinions so un- 
certain, frivolous, inept, pretentious or ridiculous, and so numerous, that we 
need not relate them. By way of sample, then: because in the returned barbarian 
times Scandinavia by the conceit of the nations was called vagina gentium and 
was believed to be the mother of all other nations in the world, therefore by the 
conceit of the scholars Johannes and Olaus Magnus were of opinion that their 
Goths had preserved from the beginning of the world the letters divinely in- 
vented by Adam. This dream was laughed at by all the scholars, but this did not 
keep Johannes van Gorp from following suit and going one better by claiming 
that his own Dutch language, which is not much different from Saxon, has come 
down from the Earthly Paradise and is the mother of all other languages. This 
claim was ridiculed by Joseph Justus Scaliger, Philipp Camerarius, Christian 
Becman, and Martin Schoock. And yet this conceit swelled to the bursting point 
in the Atlantica of Olof Rudbeck, who will have it that the Greek letters came 
from the runes; that the Phoenician letters, to which Cadmus gave the order 
and values of those of the Hebrews, were inverted runes; and that the Greeks 
finally straightened them here and rounded them there by rule and compass. 
And because the inventor is called Merkurssman among the Scandinavians, he 
will have it that the Mercury who invented letters for the Egyptians was a Goth. 
Such license in rendering opinions concerning the origins of letters should pre- 
pare the reader to receive the things we shall say of them here not merely with 
impartial readiness to see what they bring forward that is new, but with diligence 
to meditate upon them and to accept them for what they must be: namely, prin- 
ciples of all the human and divine knowledge of the gentile world, 

431 The philosophers and philologians should all have begun to treat of 
the origins of languages and letters from the following principles, (i) That 
the first men of the gentile world conceived ideas of things by imaginative char- 
acters of animate and mute substances. (2) That they expressed themselves by 
means of gestures or physical objects which had natural relations with the 
ideas; for example, three ears of grain, or acting as if swinging a scythe three 


times, to signify three years. (3) That they thus expressed themselves by a lan- 
guage with natural significations. (Plato and lamblichus said such a language 
had once been spoken in the world; it must have been the most ancient language 
of Atlantis, which scholars would have us believe expressed ideas by the nature 
of the things, that is, by their natural properties.) It is because the philosophers 
and philologians have treated separately these two things which, as we have 
said, arc naturally conjoined [the origins of languages and letters], that the in- 
quiry into the origins of letters has proved so difficult for them, involving equal 
difficulty with the inquiry into the origins of languages, with which they have 
been either not at all or very little concerned. 

432 At the outset of our discussion, then, we posit as our first principle 
the philological axiom [173] that according to the Egyptians there had been 
spoken in their world in all preceding time three languages corresponding in 
number and order to the three ages that had elapsed in their world: the ages 
of gods, heroes, and men. The first language had been hieroglyphic, sacred or 
divine; the second, symbolic, by signs or by heroic devices; the third, epistolary, 
for men at a distance to communicate to each other the current needs of their 
lives. Concerning these three languages there are two golden passages in Homer's 
Iliad, from which it clearly appears that the Greeks agreed with the Egyptians in 
this matter. In the first it is told how Nestor lived through three generations of 
men speaking different languages. Nestor must therefore have been a heroic 
character of the chronology determined by the three languages corresponding 
to the three ages of the Egyptians; and the phrase "to live the years of Nestor" 
must have meant "to live the years of the world." The other passage is that in 
which Aeneas relates to Achilles that men of different language began to in- 
habit Ilium after Troy was moved to the seashore and Pergamum became its 
fortress. To this first principle we join the tradition, also Egyptian, that their 
Thoth or Mercury invented both laws and letters. 

433 Around this truth we assemble the following others. Among the 
Greeks the words name and character had the same meaning, so that the Church 
Fathers used indiscriminately the two expressions de divinis character thus and 
de divinis nominibus. Name and definition have also the same meaning; thus, in 
rhetoric, under the head of quaestio nominis we find a search for definition of 
the fact, and in medicine the nomenclature of diseases is the head under which 
their nature is defined. Among the Romans names meant originally and properly 
houses branching into many families. And that the first Greeks had also used 
names in this sense is shown by the patronymics or names of fathers, which 
are so often used by the poets and above all by Homer. (According to Livy, a 
tribune of the plebs defined the patricians as those qui possum nomine cierc 
patrem, "who can use the surnames of their fathers.") These patronymics later 
disappeared in the popular liberty of all the rest of Greece, but were preserved 
by the Heraclids in the aristocratic commonwealth of Sparta. In Roman law 
nomcn signifies fight. Similarly in Greek nomos signifies law, and from nomos 


comes nomisma, "money,** as Aristotle notes; and according to etymologists 
nomos becomes in Latin nummus. In French, lot means "law,** and aloi means 
"money"; and among the second barbarians the term canon was applied both to 
ecclesiastical law and to the annual rent paid by the feudal leaseholder to the 
lord of the land he held in fief. This uniformity of thinking perhaps explains 
why the Latins used the term ius both for law and for the fat of sacrificed animals, 
which was Jove's due; for Jove was originally called lous, from which were 
later derived the genitives lovis and iuris (as pointed out above). Among the 
Hebrews also, of the three parts into which they divided the animal sacrificed as 
a peace-offering, the fat was accounted God's due and was burnt on the altar. 
The Latin praedia, "estates" (a term which must have been applied to rustic 
earlier than to urban estates), were so called because, as we shall presently show, 
the first cultivated fields were the first booty (praeda) in the world. The first 
taming was of such fields, which were therefore in ancient Roman law called 
manucaptae (whence manceps for one under real-estate bond to the public 
treasury); and in Roman laws iura praediorum remained a term for the so- 
called real servitudes, which were attached to real estate. And lands referred 
to as manucaptae must at first have been called mancipia; and it is certainly in 
this sense that we must understand the article of the Law of the Twelve Tables, 
Qui nexum jaciet mancipiumque, that is, "Whoever consigns the bond, con- 
signs therewith the manor." The Italians, following the same line of thought as 
the ancient Romans, called the manors poderi, as having been acquired by force. 
Further evidence: The returned barbarism called the fields with their boundaries 
presas terrarum. The Spaniards call bold enterprises prendas. The Italians call 
family coats-of-arms imprese, and use termini in the sense of "words" (a usage 
surviving in scholastic dialectic). They also call family coats-of-arms insegne, 
from which is derived the verb tnsegnare, "to teach." So Homer, in whose time 
so-called vulgar letters had not yet been invented, says Proetus' letter to Eureia 
against Bellerophon was written in semata t "signs." 

434 To crown all these things, let the following three incontrovertible 
truths be added. ( i ) Since it has been demonstrated that the first gentile nations 
were all mute in their beginnings, they must have expressed themselves by ges- 
tures or by physical objects having natural relations with their ideas. (2) They 
must have used signs to fix the boundaries of their estates and to have enduring 
witnesses of their rights. (3) They all made use of money. All these truths will 
give us the origins of languages and letters, and thereby of hieroglyphics, laws, 
names, family coats-of-arms, medals, money, and of the language and writing 
in which the first natural law of nations was spoken and written. 

435 In order to establish more firmly the principles of all this, we must 
here uproot the false opinion held by some of the Egyptians that the hieroglyphics 
were invented by philosophers to conceal in them their mysteries of lofty esoteric 
wisdom. For it was by a common natural necessity that all the first nations 
spoke in hieroglyphics (concerning which an axiom [226] has been proposed 


above). In Africa, to the case of Egypt already noted, we may add, following 
Heliodorus in his Aethiopica, the Ethiopians, who used as hieroglyphics the 
tools of all the mechanical arts. In the East the magic characters of the Chal- 
deans must have been hieroglyphics. In northern Asia, as we have seen above, 
Idanthyrsus king of the Scythians (quite late in their extremely long history, in 
which they had conquered even the Egyptians who boasted themselves the most 
ancient of all nations) used five real words to answer Darius the Great, who had 
declared war on him. These five were a frog, a mouse, a bird, a ploughshare, and 
a bow. The frog signified that he, Idanthyrsus, was born of the earth of Scythia, 
as frogs are born of the earth in summer rains, and so that he was a son of that 
land. The mouse signified that he, like a mouse, had made his home where he 
was born; that is, that he had established his nation there. The bird signified 
that in that place he had his auspices; that is, as we shall see, that he was sub- 
ject to none but God. The ploughshare signified that he had reduced those 
lands to cultivation, and thus tamed and made them his own by force. And 
finally the bow signified that as supreme commander of the arms of Scythia he 
had the duty and might to defend her. This explanation, so natural and neces- 
sary, is to be set against the ridiculous ones worked out, according to St. Cyril, 
by the counselors of Darius. Add to the interpretation of the Scythian hiero- 
glyphics by Darius's counselors the far-fetched, artificial and contorted inter- 
pretations by scholars of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, and it will be evident that 
in general the true and proper use made of hieroglyphics by the first peoples 
has hitherto not been understood. As for the Latins, Roman history has not left 
us without such a tradition; witness the mute heroic answer which Tarquinius 
Superbus sends to his son in Gabii, when in the presence of the messenger he 
cuts off the heads of poppies with the stick he has in his hands. In northern 
Europe, as Tacitus observes in describing their customs, the ancient Germans 
were not acquainted with the secrets of letters (lltcrarum secreta) \ that is, that 
they did not know how to write their hieroglyphics. This must have remained 
the case down to the times of Frederick the Swabian, indeed to those of Rudolph 
of Hapsburg, when they began to write state papers in vulgar German script. 
In northern France there was a hieroglyphic speech called rebus of Picardy, 
which must have been, as in Germany, a speech by physical things; that is, by 
the hieroglyphics of Idanthyrsus. Even in Ultima Thule, in fact in its remotest 
part, namely Scotland, as Hector Boece relates in his history of that nation, they 
wrote in hieroglyphics in ancient times. In the West Indies the Mexicans were 
found to write in hieroglyphics, and Jan de Laet in his description of the new 
India describes the hieroglyphics of the Indians as divers heads of animals, plants, 
flowers and fruits, and notes that they distinguish families by their cippi; which 
is the same use that is made of family coats-of-arms in our world. In the East 
Indies the Chinese stUl write in hieroglyphics. 

436 Thus is deflated the conceit of the scholars who came afterwards, 
a conceit to which that of the extremely conceited Egyptians dared not swell 


itself: namely, that the other sages of the world had learned from the Egyptians 
how to conceal their esoteric wisdom under hieroglyphics. 

437 Having posited these principles of poetic logic and dissipated this 
conceit of the scholars, we return to the three languages of the Egyptians. The 
first of these, that of the gods, is attested for the Greeks by Homer, who, in five 
passages of his two poems, as noted in the Axioms [174], makes mention of a 
language more ancient than his own, which is certainly heroic, and calls it 
"language of the gods." Three of the passages are in the Iliad: the first where 
he tells that the creature called Briareus by the gods was called Aegaeon by men; 
the second where he speaks of a bird called chalet da by the gods and \umlndin 
by men; the third where he says the river of Troy is called Xanthus by the gods, 
Scamander by men. In the Odyssey there are two passages: one where he says 
what men call Scylla and Charybdis the gods call plantyas petras; the other 
where Mercury gives Ulysses a secret remedy against the enchantments of Circe, 
an herb called moly by the gods, knowledge of which is denied to men. Plato 
has many things to say about these passages, but to no purpose; so that Dion 
Chrysostom later slanderously accuses Homer of pretending to understand the 
language of the gods, which naturally is denied to men. But we may question 
whether in these Homeric passages we should not read "heroes" in place of 
"gods"; for, as will presently be shown, the heroes took the name of gods over 
the plebeians of their cities, whom they called men (as in the returned barbarian 
times the vassals were called homines, to the great astonishment of Hotman), 
and the great lords (as in the returned barbarism) made a vaunt of possessing 
marvelous medical secrets. Thus the differences referred to may have been no 
more than differences between noble and vulgar speech. Be that as it may, there 
can be no doubt that among the Latins Varro occupied himself with the lan- 
guage of the gods, for he had the diligence to collect thirty thousand of their 
names, which would have sufficed for a copious divine vocabulary, with which 
the peoples of Latium might express all their human needs, which in those 
simple and frugal times must have been few indeed, being only the things that 
were necessary to life. The Greeks too had gods to the number of thirty thou- 
sand, as has also been noted in the Axioms [ 175] ; for they made a deity of every 
stone, spring, brook, plant and off-shore rock. Such deities included the dryads, 
hamadryads, oreads and napeads. Just so the American Indians make a god 
of everything that exceeds their limited understanding. Thus the divine fables 
of the Greeks and Latins must have been the true first hieroglyphics, or sacred 
or divine characters, corresponding to those of the Egyptians. 

438 The second kind of speech, corresponding to the age of heroes, was 
said by the Egyptians to have been spoken by symbols. To these may be re- 
duced the heroic emblems, which must have been the mute comparisons which 
Homer calls semata (the signs in which the heroes wrote). In consequence they 
must have been metaphors, images, similitudes or comparisons, which, having 
passed into articulate speech, supplied all the resources of poetic expression. For 


certainly Homer, if we accept the resolute denial of Josephus the Jew that there 
has come down to us any writer more ancient than he, was the first author of the 
Greek tongue; and, since we owe to the Greeks all that has reached us of the 
gentile world, he was the first author of that entire world. Among the Latins 
the earliest memorials of their tongue are the fragments of the Salian songs, 
and the first writer of whom there is mention is Livius Andronicus the poet. 
With the recurrence of barbarism in Europe, new languages were born. The first 
language of the Spaniards was that which is called romance, and consequently 
that of heroic poetry, for the romancers were the heroic poets of the returned 
barbarian times. In France the first writer in vulgar French was Arnaut Daniel 
Pacca, the first of all the Provencal poets, who flourished in the eleventh cen- 
tury. And finally the first writers in Italy were the Florentine and Sicilian 

439 The epistolary speech of the Egyptians, suitable for expressing the 
needs of common everyday life in communication from a distance, must have 
been born of the lower classes of a dominant people in Egypt, which must have 
been that of Thebes (whose king Ramses, as noted above, extended his rule over 
all that great nation), because for the Egyptians that language corresponds to 
the age of men, the term used for the plebeians of the heroic peoples to dif- 
ferentiate them from the heroes, as noted above. This language must be under- 
stood as having sprung up by their free consent, by this eternal property, that 
vulgar speech and writing are a right of the people. When the emperor Claudius 
found three additional letters necessary to the Latin language, the Roman peo- 
ple would not accept them; nor have the Italians accepted those devised by 
Giorgio Trissino, though their lack is felt in Italian. 

440 The epistolary or vulgar language of the Egyptians must have been 
written with letters likewise vulgar. Since the vulgar letters of the Egyptians 
resemble those of the Phoenicians, it is necessary to suppose that one of these 
peoples borrowed from the other. Those who think that the Egyptians were 
the first discoverers of all the things necessary or useful to human society, must 
consequently hold that the Egyptians taught their letters to the Phoenicians. But 
Clement the Alexandrian, who must have been better informed than any other 
author in matters Egyptian, relates that Sanchuniathon or Sancuniates the 
Phoenician (who in the Chronological Table is placed in the heroic age of 
Greece) had written the history of Phoenicia in vulgar letters; and he therefore 
proposes him as the first author of the gentile world to have written in vulgar 
characters. In this connection it has to be said that the Phoenicians, certainly 
the first merchant people of the world, having entered Egypt for trading pur- 
poses, may well have carried thither their vulgar letters. But, entirely apart from 
argument or conjecture, vulgar tradition assures us that these same Phoenicians 
brought their letters to Greece. Tacitus, examining this tradition, suggests that 
they passed off as their own invention the letters invented by others, meaning 
the Egyptian hieroglyphics. But, to allow the popular tradition some ground of 


truth (as we have proved all such traditions must have [144]), let us say that 
the Phoenicians brought to Greece hieroglyphics received from others, and that 
these could only have been the mathematical characters or geometric figures 
which they had received from the Chaldeans. The latter were beyond question 
the first mathematicians and especially the first astronomers of the nations; 
whence Zoroaster the Chaldean (whose name means "observer of the stars'* 
according to Bochart) was the first sage of the gentile world. The Phoenicians 
used these Chaldean characters as notations for numbers in their mercantile busi- 
ness, in pursuit of which long before Homer's time they frequented the shores 
of Greece. This is made evident by Homer's own poems, and especially the 
Odyssey. For in Homer's time, as Josephus vigorously maintains against the 
Greek grammarian Apion, vulgar letters had not yet been invented by the 
Greeks. But the latter, with supreme genius, in which they certainly surpassed 
all nations, took over these geometric forms to represent the various articulated 
sounds, and shaped them into vulgar characters of letters with consummate 
beauty. These were later adopted by the Latins, whose letters, as Tacitus himself 
observes, resembled the most ancient Greek ones. Weighty proof of this is the 
fact that the Greeks for a long period, and the Latins down to their latest times, 
used capital letters to represent numbers. It must have been these letters that 
were taught to the Latins by Demaratus the Corinthian and by Carmenta, the 
wife of Evander the Arcadian. We shall explain presently that in ancient times 
Greek colonies had been taken to Latium by sea and by land. 

441 There is no worth in the contention of many scholars that, because 
the Hebrews and the Greeks give almost the same names to their vulgar letters, 
the Greeks must have got theirs from the Hebrews. It is more reasonable that 
the Hebrews should have imitated the Greek nomenclature than vice versa. For 
it is universally agreed that from the time that Alexander the Great conquered 
the empire of the East (which after his death was divided by his captains) 
Greek speech spread throughout Egypt and the East. And since it is also gen- 
erally agreed that grammar was introduced quite late among the Hebrews, it 
follows necessarily that the Hebrew men of letters called their Hebrew letters 
by the Greek names. Moreover, since the elements [of anything] are very simple 
in nature, the Greeks must at first have called their letters by the simplest sounds 
[e.g. "ah" for ], and it must have been for that reason that the letters were 
called elements. The Latins, following suit, called them with the same gravity, 
and also kept the forms of the letters like the most ancient Greek ones. We 
must therefore conclude that calling the letters by complex names [e.g. "alpha'* 
for a] was introduced late among the Greeks, and later still brought by the 
Greeks to the Hebrews in the East. 

442 These arguments confute the opinion of those who would have it 
that Cecrops the Egyptian brought vulgar letters to the Greeks. Another opin- 
ion, that Cadmus the Phoenician must have brought them from Egypt into 
Greece because he founded a city there and named it Thebes after the capital of 


the greatest Egyptian dynasty, will be refuted presently by the principles of 
Poetic Geography, by which it will appear that the Greeks who went to Egypt 
called the Egyptian capital Thebes because it bore a resemblance to their native 
city of that name. And finally we understand why cautious critics, cited by an 
anonymous English writer on the uncertainty of the sciences [Thomas Baker, 
Reflections on Learning], conclude from the too early date assigned to San- 
cuniates that he never existed. We, accordingly, not to put him out of the world 
entirely, judge that he must be set in a later age, certainly after Homer. And 
to allow the Phoenicians priority over the Greeks in the invention of the so-called 
vulgar letters (not failing, however, to take into account that the Greeks had 
more genius than the Phoenicians), it has to be said that Sancuniates must have 
lived a little before Herodotus, who was called the father of Greek history, which 
he wrote in the vulgar speech. For Sancuniates was called the historian of truth; 
that is, a writer of what Varro in his division of times calls the historical time. 
In that time, according to the Egyptian division of three languages correspond- 
ing to the three ages of the world that had elapsed before them, they spoke in 
the epistolary language written in vulgar characters. 

443 Now, as the heroic or poetic language was founded by the heroes, 
so the vulgar languages were introduced by the common people, whom we shall 
find to have been the plebs of the heroic peoples. By the Latins these languages 
were properly called vernacular. They could not, however, have been introduced 
by those vcrnac defined by the grammarians as slaves born at home of enslaved 
prisoners of war, for these naturally learn the languages of their parents' peo- 
ples. But the first and properly so-called vernae, as will be shown, were the 
famult of the heroes in the state of the families. These famuli, of whom the 
masses of the first plebs of the heroic cities were later composed, were pre- 
cursors of the slaves later secured by the cities through war. All this is con- 
firmed by the two languages of which Homer speaks: the one of the gods, the 
other of men, which above we interpreted as the heroic and the vulgar language, 
which we shall shortly explain more fully. 

444 The philologians have all accepted with an excess of good faith the 
view that in the vulgar languages meanings were fixed by convention. On the 
contrary, because of their natural origins, they must have had natural significa- 
tions. This is easy to observe in vulgar Latin (which is more heroic than vulgar 
Greek, and therefore as much more robust as the latter is more refined), which 
has formed almost all its words by metaphors drawn from natural objects ac- 
cording to their natural properties or sensible effects. And in general metaphor 
makes up the great body of the language among all nations. But the gram- 
marians, encountering great numbers of words which give confused and indis- 
tinct ideas of things, and not knowing their origins, which had made them at 
first clear and distinct, have given peace to their ignorance by setting up the 
universal maxim that articulate human words have arbitrary significations. And 


they have dragged in Aristotle, Galen and other philosophers, and armed them 
against Plato and lamblichus, as we have said [227]. 

445 There remains, however, the very great difficulty: How is it that 
there are as many different vulgar tongues as there are peoples ? To solve it, we 
must here establish this great truth: that, as the peoples have certainly by 
diversity of climates acquired different natures, from which have sprung as 
many different customs, so from their different natures and customs as many 
different languages have arisen. For by virtue of the aforesaid diversity of their 
natures they have regarded the same utilities or necessities of human life from 
different points of view, and there have thus arisen so many national customs, 
for the most part differing from one another and at times contrary to each 
other; so and not otherwise there have arisen as many different languages as 
there are nations. An evident confirmation of this is found in the proverbs, 
which are maxims of human life, the same in substance but expressed from as 
many points of view as there are or have been different nations, as has been 
noted in the Axioms [161]. Thus the same heroic origins, preserved in brief in 
the vulgar tongues, have given rise to the phenomenon so astonishing to biblical 
critics: that the names of the same kings appear in one form in sacred and in 
another in profane history. The reason is that the one perchance considers men 
with regard to their appearance or power, the other with regard to their cus- 
toms, undertakings, or whatever else it may have been. In the same way we still 
find the cities of Hungary given one name by the Hungarians, another by the 
Greeks, another by the Germans, another by the Turks. The German language, 
which is a living heroic language, transforms almost all names from foreign 
languages into its own. We may conjecture that the Latins and Greeks did the 
same when we find them discussing so many barbarian matters with Greek and 
Latin elegance. This must be the cause of the obscurity encountered in ancient 
geography and in the natural history of fossils, plants and animals. And for this 
reason we excogitated, in the first edition of this work, an Idea of a Mental Dic- 
tionary for assigning meanings to all the different articulate languages, reducing 
them all to certain unities of ideas in substance, which, considered from various 
points of view, have come to be expressed by different words in each. We make 
continual use of this in working out the argument of our Science. And we 
gave a very full example of it in the fourth chapter [actually book III, chapter 
41], where we showed that the fathers of families, considered from fifteen dif- 
ferent points of view in the state of the families and of the first commonwealths, 
at the time when the languages must have been taking form, were called by 
an equal number of different names by fifteen nations ancient and modern. (And 
most weighty are those arguments concerning the things of that time which are 
taken from the original meanings of the words, as set forth in the Axioms [240].) 
This is one of the three passages on account of which we do not regret the pub- 
lication of that book. The aforesaid Dictionary develops in a new way the argu- 


ment presented by Thomas Hayne in his dissertation on the kinship of lan- 
guages and in his others on languages in general and on the harmony of various 
languages. From all this we infer the following corollary: that languages are 
more beautiful in proportion as they are richer in these condensed heroic ex- 
pressions; that they are more beautiful because they are more evident; and that 
because they are more evident they are truer and more faithful. And that on the 
contrary, in proportion as they are more crowded with words of unknown origin, 
they are less delightful, because obscure and confused, and therefore more likely 
to deceive and lead astray. The latter must be the case with languages formed 
by the mixture of many barbarous tongues, the history of whose original and 
metaphorical meanings has not come down to us. 

446 To enter now upon the extremely difficult [question of the] way 
in which these three kinds of languages and letters were formed, we must estab- 
lish this principle: that as gods, heroes and men began at the same time (for 
they were after all men who imagined the gods and believed their own heroic 
nature to be a mixture of the divine and human natures), so these three lan- 
guages began at the same time, each having its letters, which developed along 
with it. They began, however, with these three very great differences: that the 
language of the gods was almost entirely mute, only very slightly articulate; 
the language of the heroes, an equal mixture of articulate and mute, and con- 
sequently of vulgar speech and of the heroic characters used in writing by the 
heroes, which Homer calls semata; the language of men, almost entirely articu- 
late and only very slightly mute, there being no vulgar language so copious that 
there are not more things than it has words for. Thus necessarily the heroic lan- 
guage was in the beginning disordered in the extreme; and this is a great source 
of the obscurity of the fables. The fable of Cadmus will serve as a signal example. 
Cadmus slays the great serpent, sows its teeth, armed men spring up from the 
furrows, he throws a great rock among them, they fight to the death, and finally 
Cadmus himself changes into a serpent. So ingenious was this Cadmus, who 
brought letters to the Greeks, by whom this fable has been transmitted, that, as 
we shall explain presently, it contains several centuries of poetic history! 

447 To follow up what has already been said: at the same time that the 
divine character of Jove took shape the first human thought in the gentile 
world articulate language began to develop by way of onomatopoeia, through 
which we still find children happily expressing themselves. By the Latins Jove 
was at first, from the roar of the thunder, called lous; by the Greeks, from the 
whistle of the lightning, Zeus; by the Easterners, from the sound of burning 
fire, he must have been called Ur f whence came Urim, the power of fire; and 
from this same origin must have come the Greek ouranos, sky, and the Latin 
verb uro t to burn. From the whistle of the lightning must also have come the 
Latin eel, one of the monosyllables of Ausonius, pronounced however with the 
Spanish cedilla (f), which is required to give point to Ausonius's own jesting 
line about Venuj: Nat a salo, suscepta solo, patre edita caelo, "Born of the sea, 


adopted by the soil, raised by her father to the sky." With respect to these origins 
it is to be noted that the same sublimity of invention evinced in the fable of 
Jove, which we have observed above, marks the beginning of poetic locution 
in onomatopoeia, which Dionysius Longinus certainly includes among the 
sources of the sublime, and which he illustrates from Homer, citing the sizzling 
sound (siz') emitted by the eye of Polyphemus when Ulysses pierces it with 
the fiery stake. 

448 Human words were formed next from interjections, which are 
sounds articulated under the impetus of violent passions. In all languages these 
are monosyllables. Thus it is not beyond likelihood that, when wonder had 
been awakened in men by the first thunderbolts, these interjections of Jove 
should give birth to one produced by the human voice: "pal"; and that this 
should then be doubled: " pa pel" From this interjection of wonder was sub- 
sequently derived Jove's title of "father of men and gods," and thus it came 
about presently that all the gods were called fathers, and the goddesses, mothers; 
whence the Latin names lupiter, Dicspiter, Marspiter, luno genitrix. The fables 
certainly tell us that Juno was sterile; and we have observed above that many 
other gods and goddesses did not marry among their kind. (Venus was called 
the concubine, not the wife, of Mars.) None the less they were all called fathers. 
(On this point there are some verses of Lucilius which we have cited in the 
Notes to our Universal Law.) They were called fathers in the sense in which 
patrare originally meant to do or make, which is the prerogative of God. Patrare 
occurs thus even in Scripture, where, in the story of the creation of the world, 
it is said that on the seventh day God rested ab opere quod patrarat, "from the 
work which He had done." Thence must have been derived the verb impetrare, 
as if for Impatrare. The form used in the science of augury was impetrtre, "to 
obtain a good augury," concerning whose origin the Latin grammarians have 
written so much nonsense. This proves that the first interpretation (tnterpretatio 
as if for inter pair atlo) was the interpretation of the divine laws declared by the 

449 The strong men in the family state, from a natural ambition of human 
pride, arrogated to themselves this divine title of "fathers" (a fact which may 
have been the ground for the vulgar tradition that the first strong men of the 
earth had caused themselves to be adored as gods); but, observing the piety 
they owed to the deities, they called the latter gods. Later, when the strong men 
of the first cities took the name of gods upon themselves, they were moved by 
the same piety to call the deities "immortal gods," to differentiate them from 
themselves, the "mortal gods." But in this may be observed the grossness of these 
giants, like that which travelers report of los patacones [170]. A fair trace of it 
has remained in the ancient Latin words pipulum and pipare, in the sense of 
"complaint" and "to complain," which must be derived from the interjection of 
lament, "pi, pi" Pipulum in this sense in Plautus is generally interpreted as 
synonymous with obvagulaiio in the Twelve Tables, which must come from 


vagirc, which is properly the crying of children. A similar origin from the inter- 
jection of fear must be assigned to the Greek word paian, which begins with pal. 
Concerning this the Greeks have a very ancient golden tradition to the effect 
that when they were terrified by the great serpent called Python they invoked 
the aid of Apollo with the words id paidn. Dazed with fear, they first pronounced 
them slowly three times, but then, when Apollo had slain the Python, they 
jubilantly pronounced them another three times quickly, dividing the omega 
into two omicrons and the diphthong ai into two syllables. Thus naturally was 
Greek heroic verse at first spondaic and then dactylic, and it has retained this 
eternal property, that it gives preference to the dactyl in every foot except the 
last. Song arose naturally, in the measure of heroic verse, under the impulse of 
most violent passions, even as we still observe men sing when moved by great 
passions, especially extreme happiness or grief, as has been said in the Axioms 
[229]. What has been said here will shortly be of much use when we discuss 
the origins of song and verse. 

450 They went on to form pronouns; for interjections give vent to one's 
own passions, a thing which one can do even by oneself, but pronouns serve 
in sharing our ideas with others concerning things which we cannot name or 
whose names another may not understand. Pronouns are likewise in all lan- 
guages for the greater part, if not quite all, monosyllables. The first of them, or 
at least among the first, must have been the one which occurs in that golden 
passage of Ennius: As f ice hoc sublime cadens, quern omnes invocant lovem, 
"Behold this sublime overhanging, which all invoke as Jove," where hoc stands 
for caelum t the sky. It occurs also in vulgar Latin: Luciscit hoc iam t for albcscit 
caelum, "the sky grows light." And articles from the time of their first appear- 
ance have this eternal property: that they go before the nouns to which they are 

451 Later were formed the particles, of which a great part are the prep- 
ositions, which also, in almost all languages, arc monosyllables. These preserve 
in the name they bear this eternal property: that they go before the nouns which 
require them and the verbs with which they form compounds. 

452 Gradually nouns were formed. In the chapter on the Origins of the 
Latin Language in the first edition of this work, we listed a great number of 
nouns which sprang up within LaUum, beginning with the sylvan life of the 
Latins and continuing through their rural into their earliest city life; all of them 
formed as monosyllables, showing no trace of foreign origin, not even Greek, ex- 
cept for four words: bous, sus f mm, and seps, the last of which means "hedge" 
in Latin and "serpent" in Greek. This is the second of the three passages in that 
work which we regard as adequate. It may serve as a model to scholars of other 
languages in investigating their origins to the great profit of the republic of 
letters. Certainly in the German language, for instance, which is a mother lan- 
guage (because foreign nations never entered that country to rule over it), the 


roots are all monosyllabic. And that nouns sprang up before verbs is proved by 
this eternal property: that there is no significant discourse that does not begin 
with a noun, expressed or understood, which governs it. 

453 Last of all the authors of the languages formed the verbs, as we ob- 
serve children expressing nouns and particles but leaving the verbs to be under- 
stood. For nouns awaken ideas which leave firm traces; particles, signifying 
modifications, do the same; but verbs signify motions, which involve past and 
future, which are measured from the indivisible present, which even philosophers 
find very hard to understand. Our assertion may be supported by a medical 
observation. There is a good man living among us who, after a severe apoplectic 
stroke, utters nouns but has completely forgotten verbs. Even the verbs which 
are genera of all the others as sum is of being, to which are reduced all es- 
sences, which is as much as to say all metaphysical things; sto of rest and eo of 
motion, to which are reduced ail physical things; do, dico and jacio, to which 
are reduced all matters of action, whether moral, economic or civil these verbs 
must have begun as imperatives. For in the state of the families, which was ex- 
tremely poor in language, the fathers alone must have spoken and given com- 
mands to their children and famuli, who, under the terrors of patriarchal rule, 
as we shall soon see, must have executed the commands in silence and with 
blind obsequiousness. These imperatives are all monosyllables, as they have re- 
mained: es, sta, i t da, die, fac, "be," "stand," "go," "give," "say," "make." 

454 This [theory of the] genesis of languages is in conformity with the 
principles of universal nature, by which the elements of ail things, out of which 
they are composed and into which they are bound to be resolved, are indivisible; 
and also with the principles of human nature in particular, according to the 
axiom [231] that "children, even in the present copiousness of language into 
which they are born, and in spite of the extreme flexibility of the fibers of their 
organs for articulating words, begin with monosyllables." So much the more 
must we deem the first men of the nations to have done so, for their organs were 
extremely obdurate, and they had not yet heard a human voice. [Our theory] 
gives us, moreover, the order in which the parts of speech arose, and consequently 
the natural causes of syntax. 

455 All this seems more reasonable than what Julius Caesar Scaliger and 
Francisco Sanchez have said with regard to the Latin language, reasoning from 
the principles of Aristotle, as if the peoples that invented the languages must 
first have gone to school to him! 




456 In this way the nations formed the poetic language, composed of 
divine and heroic characters, later expressed in vulgar speech, and finally writ- 
ten in vulgar characters. It was born entirely of poverty of language and need 
of expression. This is proved by the first lights of poetic style, which are vivid 
representations, images, similes, comparisons, metaphors, circumlocutions, 
phrases explaining things by their natural properties, descriptions gathered from 
their minuter or their more sensible effects, and, finally, their striking and even 
their trifling collateral circumstances. 

457 Episodes were born of the grossness of the heroic minds, unable to 
confine themselves to those essential features of things that were to the purpose 
in hand, as we see to be naturally the case with the feeble-minded and above 
all with women. 

458 Inversions arose from the difficulty of completing statements with 
their verbs, which, as we have seen, were the last part of speech to be invented. 
Thus the Greeks, who were more ingenious, used fewer inversions than the 
Latins, and the Latins fewer than the Germans. 

459 Prose rhythm was understood late by the writers in Greek by 
Gorgias of Leontini, and in Latin by Cicero because earlier (according to 
Cicero himself) they had given a rhythmic character to their orations by using 
certain poetic measures. This fact will presently be very useful when we discuss 
the origins of song and verse. 

460 From all this it appears to have been demonstrated that, by a neces- 
sity of human nature, poetic style arose before prose style; just as, by the same 
necessity, the fables, or imaginative universals, arose before the rational or 
philosophic universals which were formed through the medium of prose speech. 
For after the poets had formed poetic speech by associating particular ideas, as 
we have fully shown, the peoples went on to form prose speech by contracting 
into a single word, as into a genus, the parts which poetic speech had associated. 
Take for example the poetic phrase, "the blood boils in my heart/' based on a 
property natural, eternal and common to all mankind. They took the blood, the 
boiling and the heart, and made of them a single word, as it were a genus, called 
in Greek stomachos, in Latin ira and in Italian collera. Following the same pat- 
tern, hieroglyphics and heroic letters were reduced to a few vulgar letters, as 
genera assimilating innumerable diverse articulate sounds; a feat requiring con- 


summatc genius. By means of these vulgar genera, both of words and of letters, 
the minds of the peoples grew quicker and developed powers of abstraction, 
and the way was thus prepared for the coming of the philosophers who formed 
intelligible genera. What has here been discussed is a small portion of the his- 
tory of ideas. To such an extent has it been necessary, in seeking the origins of 
letters, to deal in the same breath with those of languages! 

461 Concerning song and verse we have proposed the axiom [228] that 
since men arc shown to have been originally mute, they must have uttered 
vowel sounds by singing, as mutes do; and later, like stammerers, they must 
have uttered articulate consonantal sounds, still by singing. This first singing of 
the peoples has left a great testimony in the diphthongs surviving in the lan- 
guages. These must originally have been much more numerous, as the Greeks 
and the French, who passed prematurely from the poetic to the vulgar age, have 
left us a great many of them, as observed in the Axioms [159]. The reason for 
this is that the vowels are easy to form and the consonants difficult, and, as has 
been shown, the first dull-witted men were moved to utterance only by very 
violent passions, which are naturally expressed in a very loud voice. And nature 
brings it about that when man greatly raises his voice, he breaks into diphthongs 
and song, as noted in the Axioms [229]. Thus, as shown a little above [449], 
the first Greeks, in the time of their gods, formed the first spondaic heroic verse 
with the diphthong pai, employing twice as many vowels as consonants. 

462 Again, this first song of the peoples sprang naturally from the dif- 
ficulty of the first utterances, which can be demonstrated both from cause and 
from effect. From cause, since in these men the fibers of the organ for articulating 
sounds were quite hard, and there were very few sounds they could make; as 
on the other hand children, with very flexible fibers, born into our present plenty 
of words, are observed to pronounce consonants only with the greatest difficulty 
(as remarked in the Axioms [231 ] ) ; and the Chinese, whose vulgar language has 
no more than three hundred articulated words, which with various modifications 
of pitch and tempo correspond to their one hundred and twenty thousand hiero- 
glyphs, also speak by singing. And from effect, by the contraction of words, of 
which innumerable examples are observed in Italian poetry (in our Origins of 
the Latin Language we set forth a great number which must have begun short 
and been lengthened in the course of time); and on the other hand by redun- 
dancies, because stutterers use a syllable which they can more readily utter sing- 
ing in such a way as to compensate for those they find it difficult to pronounce 
(as set forth in the Axioms [228]). Thus there was among us in my time an 
excellent tenor with this speech defect, who, when he stumbled over a word, 
would break into the sweetest song and so pronounce it. Certainly the Arabs 
begin almost all their words with al-; and it is said the Huns were so called be- 
cause they began all theirs with hun-. Finally, that languages began with song 
is shown by what we have just said [459]: that prior to Gorgias and Cicero the 
Greek and Latin prose writers used certain almost poetic rhythms, as in the 


returned barbarian times the Fathers of the Roman Church did (and, it will be 
found, those of the Greek Church did too), so that their prose seems made for 

463 The first verse must have sprung up (as we have recently shown it 
did) conformably to the language and time of the heroes; that is, it was heroic 
verse, the grandest of all, and the proper verse for heroic poetry; and it was 
born of the most violent passions of fear and joy, for heroic poetry has to do only 
with extremely perturbed passions. However, its spondaic origin was not from the 
great fear of the Python, as vulgar tradition relates; for such perturbation rather 
quickens ideas and words than retards them; whence in Latin festinans and 
solicitus connote fear. No, it was because of the slowness of mind and stiffness 
of tongue of the founders of the nations that heroic verse was born spondaic, 
as we have shown; and from that origin it retains the characteristic of never 
admitting anything but a spondee in the last foot. Later, as minds and tongues 
became quicker, the dactyl was introduced. Then, as both became still more 
practiced, there arose the iamb, the "quick" foot, as Horace calls it. Two axioms 
[232, 233] have been set forth with regard to these origins. Finally, when mind 
and tongue had reached the highest degree of celerity, there developed prose, 
which, as we recently saw, speaks as it were in intelligible genera. Iambic verse 
comes so near to prose that prose writers have often fallen into it inadvertently, 
Thus song went on growing swifter in its verse forms in proportion as ideas and 
tongues became quicker among the nations, as we have also noted in the Axioms 

464 This philosophy is confirmed by history, which tells us of nothing 
more ancient than oracles and sybils, as set forth in the Axioms [381]. Thus, to 
signify that a thing was very old, there was the saying, "That is older than the 
sybil"; and the sybils, of whom a good dozen have come down to us, were scat- 
tered among all the first nations. There is a vulgar tradition to the effect that 
the sybils sang in heroic verse, and the oracles of all nations also gave their re- 
sponses in heroic verse. For that reason the Greeks called this verse Pythian from 
their famous oracle of Pythian Apollo, who must have been so called from his 
slaying of the serpent called Python, which, in the account related above gave 
rise to the first spondaic verse. By the Latins heroic verse was called Saturnian, 
as Festus attests. It must have sprung up in Italy in the age of Saturn, which 
corresponds to the Golden Age of the Greeks, in which Apollo, like the other 
gods, had dealings on earth with men. And Ennius, again according to Festus, 
says that in this verse the fauns of Italy delivered their prophecies or oracles 
(which certainly among the Greeks, as we have said, were delivered in hexam- 
eters). But later the term Saturnian verses was applied to iambic senarii, per- 
haps because by then it was as natural to speak in these Saturnian iambic verses 
as it had previously been to speak in Saturnian heroic verses. 

465 Hebraists today are divided in their opinions upon tht question 
whether Hebrew? poetry is metrical or merely rhythmical. However, Joscphus, 


Philo, Origen and Eusebius stand as favoring meter, and (what is most to our 
present purpose) St. Jerome holds that the Book of Job, which is older than the 
books of Moses, was composed in heroic verse from the beginning of the third 
chapter to the end of the forty-second. 

466 The Arabs, ignorant of letters, as related by the anonymous author 
[Thomas Baker] of [a book on] the uncertainty of the sciences [442], preserved 
their language by memorizing their poems until they overran the eastern prov- 
inces of the Greek empire. 

467 The Egyptians inscribed memorials of their dead in verse on columns 
called syringes from sir, which means song; whence the name of the Siren, 
a deity beyond doubt celebrated for her singing. Ovid says the nymph Syrinx 
was equally celebrated for beauty and for song. By the same token, the Syrians 
and Assyrians, whose names are likewise derived from sir, must have spoken 
at first in verse. 

468 Certainly the founders of Greek humanity were the theological poets, 
and these were heroes and sang in heroic verse. 

469 We have seen that the first authors of the Latin language were the 
Salii, who were sacred poets, from whom we have the fragments of the Salian 
verses, which have an air of heroic verse and are the oldest memorials of Latin 
speech. The conquering ancient Romans left memorials of their triumphs in a 
sort of heroic verse, like the Duello magno dirimendo, re gibus subigendis of 
Lucius Aemilius Regillus, and the Pundit, fugat, prosternit maxima* legiones 
of Acilius Glabrio, and others. In the fragments of the Law of the Twelve 
Tables, the articles seem upon careful reflection to end for the most part in 
Adonic verses, which are the concluding portions of heroic verses. Cicero must 
have imitated them in his laws [De leg. II, 8], which begin thus: Deos caste 
adeunto; Ptetatem adhibento. Whence the Roman custom, also mentioned by 
Cicero, whereby the children learned the Law of the Twelve Tables by singing 
it tanquam necessarium carmen, "as an indispensable song," to use his words. 
The Cretan children, we are told by Aelian [Var. Hist. II, 39], did likewise 
[with the laws of their country]. Certainly Cicero, famous as the discoverer of 
prose rhythm among the Latins, as Gorgias of Leontini had been among the 
Greeks (a point reflected upon above), must have shunned in his prose prose 
of such weighty argument not merely verses so. sonorous, but iambic verse 
as well, much as the latter resembles prose; and he guarded himself against it 
even in his familiar correspondence. Hence the vulgar traditions concerning 
this kind of verse must be true: the first, according to Plato, that the laws of 
the Egyptians were poems of the goddess Isis; the second, according to Plutarch, 
that Lycurgus gave his laws to the Spartans in verse, forbidding them in one 
particular law to acquire knowledge of letters; the third, according to Maximus 
of Tyre, that Jove had given the laws to Minos in verse; the fourth and last, 
cited by Suidas, that Draco, who by another vulgar tradition wrote his laws in 
blood, proclaimed them to the Athenians in verse. 


470 We return now from laws to history. Tacitus in his account of the 
customs of the ancient Germans relates that they preserved in verse the begin- 
nings of their history, and Lipsius in his notes on this passage says the 
same of the American Indians. The example of these two nations, of which the 
first was known only to the Romans, and to them very late, and the second dis- 
covered but two centuries ago by our Europeans, gives us a strong argument 
for conjecturing the same of all other barbarous nations, both ancient and 
modern; and, conjecture aside, the authorities tell us that the Persians among 
the ancient nations, and the Chinese among those discovered in modern times, 
wrote their first histories in verse. And here let this important observation be 
made: that, if the peoples were established by laws, and if among all these 
peoples the laws were given in verse, and if the first things of these peoples 
were likewise preserved in verse, it necessarily follows that all the first peoples 
were poets. 

471 We resume now the subject under discussion, concerning the origins 
of verse. According to Festus, the wars with Carthage were described in heroic 
verse by Naevius even before Ennius's time; and Livius Andronicus, the first 
Latin writer, wrote the Romanidae, a heroic poem containing the annals of the 
ancient Romans. In the returned barbarian times the Latin historians were 
heroic poets, like Gunther, William of Apulia and others. We have seen that 
the first writers in the modern languages of Europe were versifiers; and in 
Silesia, a province almost entirely inhabited by peasants, the people are born 
poets. And generally the German language preserves its heroic origins intact 
even to excess and this is the reason, though Adam Rechenberg is unaware 
of it, for the fact he attests, that Greek compound words can be happily ren- 
dered in German, especially in poetry. Bernegger compiled a catalog of these 
words, and Georg Christoph Peisker has since been at pains to extend it in his 
Index . . . fro graecae et germanicae linguae analogia. The ancient Latin lan- 
guage has also left us many examples of compounds formed by combining whole 
words; and of these compounds, as of their right, the poets have continued to 
make use. For it must have been a common property of all the first languages 
that, as has been shown, they were furnished first with nouns and only later 
with verbs, and so they had supplied the lack of verbs by putting nouns to- 
gether. These must be the informing principles of what [G. D.] Morhofen has 
written in his Unterricht von der teutschen Sprache und Pocsic. Let this stand 
as a proof of the opinion which we stated in the Axioms [153]: that "if the 
scholars of the German language apply themselves to seeking its origins by 
these principles they will make marvelous discoveries." 

472 All that has here been reasoned out seems clearly to confute the 
common error of the grammarians, who say that prose speech came first and 
speech in verse afterward. And within the origins of poetry, as they have here 
been disclosed, we have found the origins of languages and letters. 




473 Along with this first birth of characters and languages was also 
born law, which the Latins called ious and the ancient Greeks diaion f which we 
explained above [398] as derived from Dios and meaning celestial. Thence 
came the Latin phrases sub dio and sub love, both meaning "under the sky/' 
Later, as Plato says in the Cratylus, by refinement of speech, diaion became 
di\aion. For the heavens were observed as the aspect of Jove by all the gentile 
nations the world over, to receive therefrom their laws in the auspices which 
they considered to be his divine admonishments or commands. And this shows 
that all the nations were born in the persuasion of divine providence. 

474 To enumerate: (i) For the Chaldeans the sky was Jove in that they 
believed they could foretell the future by the aspects and movements of the 
stars. The two sciences of these matters were called astronomy and astrology, 
the former dealing with the laws of the stars and the latter (m the [restricted] 
sense of judicial astrology) with their language. In the Roman laws, judicial 
astrologers were still called Chaldeans. 

475 (2) For the Persians too the sky was Jove, for it signified for them 
things hidden from men. Those who were learned in the science of these things 
were called mages, and the word magic was applied to two sciences, one the 
legitimate natural science of the marvelous hidden forces of nature, the other 
the illicit science of the supernatural; in the latter sense a mage was a wizard. 
The mages used the rod (the lituus of the Roman augurs) to describe the circles 
of the astronomers; later the wizards made use of the rod and circles in their 
witchcraft. For the Persians the sky was the temple of Jove; and Cyrus, because 
this was his religion, destroyed the temples built by the Greeks. 

476 (3) For the Egyptians too, Jove was the sky, for they believed that 
the heavens influenced sublunar affairs and announced future events. Hence 
they believed they could direct celestial influences by casting their images at the 
right time, and to this day they have preserved a vulgar art of divination. 

477 (4) To the Greeks Jove was likewise the sky, for they considered 
as of celestial origin the theorems and mathemata we have mentioned elsewhere 
[391]. These they believed to be divine or sublime things to be contemplated by 


the bodily eyes and to be observed (in the sense of obeyed) as laws of Jove. From 
mathemata comes the term mathematicians as applied in the Roman laws to 
the judicial astrologers. 

478 (5) As for the Romans, the verse of Ennius quoted above [450] 
is well known: As f ice hoc sublime cadens, quern omnes invocant lovem. The 
pronoun hoc should here be taken, as we have said, as anding for coclum. The 
Romans also used the phrase templa cocli, as we have said, for the regions of 
the sky marked out by the augurs for taking the auspices. Thus the Latin 
templum came to signify any place which is free on every side and has an un- 
obstructed prospect. Hence extcmplo, meaning "immediately." It is with this 
old sense in mind that Vergil calls the sea neptunia templa. 

479 (6) The ancient Germans, as Tacitus narrates, worshiped their gods 
in holy places which he calls luci ct nemora. These must have been clearings 
leveled in the midst of the forest. The Church had great trouble in weaning 
them from this practice, as we gather from the councils of Nantes and Braga in 
Burchard's collection of Decreta; and even today traces remain of it in Lapland 
and Livonia. 

480 (7) The Peruvian Indians, it has been learned, called their god 
simply "the sublime," and their open-air temples were hills up which one 
climbed on either of two sides by very long stairways; and all their magnificence 
consists in their height. Thus everywhere the magnificence of temples is meas- 
ured by their disproportionate height. The pediment of temples we find in 
Pausanias was called aetos, which is very much to our purpose, for it means 
"eagle." The forests were cleared to afford a prospect for observing whence came 
the auspices of the eagles, who fly higher than all other birds. Perhaps for that 
reason the pediments were called pinnae templorum, which must later have 
prompted the term pinnae murorum, because on the confines of these first 
temples of the world the walls of the first cities were erected, as we shall see 
later. And finally in architecture what we now call the merlons or battlements 
were called eagles. 

481 But the Hebrews worshiped the true All Highest, who is above the 
heavens, in the enclosure of the tabernacle; and Moses, wherever the people of 
God extended their conquests, gave orders that the sacred groves inclosing the 
luci that Tacitus speaks of should be burned. 

482 From the foregoing we gather that the first laws everywhere were 
the divine laws of Jove. So ancient in origin is the usage which has come down 
in the languages of many Christian nations of taking heaven for God. We 
Italians, for example, say voglia il ciclo, "may heaven plsase," and spero al cielo, 
"I hope to heaven," meaning God in both expressions. The Spanish have the 
same usage. The French say bleu for "blue," and since blue is a term of sense 
perception they must have meant by bleu the sky; and, just as the gentile na- 
tions used "sky" for Jove, the French must have used bleu for God in that im- 
pious oath of theirs, moure bleul, "God's death!"; and they still say parbleul, 


"by God!" And this may serve as an example of the Mental Dictionary proposed 
in the Axioms [162], which has been discussed above. 


483 The need for certainty of ownership was a large part of the necessity 
for the invention of characters and names in the native sense of houses branching 
into many families, which, with perfect propriety, were called gentes. Thus 
[Hermes or] Mercury Trismegistus, a poetic character of the first founders of 
the Egyptians, as we have shown, was their inventor of laws and letters. From 
this Mercury, who was likewise held to be the god of trade, the Italians by a 
wonderful parallel in thought and expression lasting to our own time took 
the verb mercare, "to mark," in the sense of branding with letters or insignia the 
cattle or other merchandise they have for sale, to distinguish and identify the 


484 Such are the first origins of family coats-of-arms and hence of medals 
and coins. From these devices, employed first for private and later for public 
needs, came the learned emblems for pleasure's sake. These latter, by a sort of 
divination [on the part of the scholars], were called heroic; but they have to be 
explained by mottoes, for their meanings are [now merely] analogical; whereas 
the natural heroic emblems were such from lack of mottoes, and spoke forth 
in their very muteness. Hence they were in their own right the best emblems, 
for they carried their meaning in themselves. For example, three ears of grain, 
or three scythe-swinging motions, naturally signified three years. And so it 
came about that names and characters were interchangeable, and names and 
natures came to mean the same thing, as we have said above. 

485 Now, beginning all over again with family arms, in the returned bar- 
barian times the nations again became mute in vulgar speech. For this reason 
no notice has come down to us of the Spanish, French, Italian or other lan- 
guages of those times, and Greek and Latin were known only by the priests, 
so that among the French clerc was used in the sense of a literate man, and on 
the other hand the Italians, as we see from a fine passage in Dante, used laico, 
"layman," for a man ignorant of letters. Indeed even among the clergy ignorance 
was so dense that we read documents signed by bishops with the simple sign 
of the cross because they did not know how to write their own names. And even 
the learned prelates could write but little, as is shown by the diligent Father 
Mabillon in his work De re diplomatica , with its copperplate facsimiles of the 
signatures of bishops and archbishops to the acts of the councils of those bar- 
barous days. They can be seen to have been written with letters more misshapen 
and clumsy than those of the most untaught simpleton of today. Yet for the 
most part the chancellors of the realms of Europe were such prelates, as was 
the case with the three Chancellor Archbishops of the Empire, one each for Ger- 


man, French and Italian; and from these, because of the way they had of 
writing their letters with such irregular shapes, must have come the phrase 
"chancellors script." Because of this scarcity of literate men an English law was 
decreed according to which a criminal under sentence of death who knew his 
letters would be spared as "excelling in art" [excellent in ane non debet won]. 
Perhaps from this the term "lettered" came later to signify "learned." 

486 Because of this same scarcity of men who could write, we do not 
find a single wall in ancient houses without some device carved upon it. More- 
over, the barbarous Latins applied the term terrae prcsa to a farm with its 
boundaries, and the Italians called it podere with the same idea the Latins had 
in calling it praedium, for the lands brought under cultivation were the first 
booty [prey] of the world. In the Law of the Twelve Tables estates were called 
mancipta, and those under real-estate bond (principally to the public treasury) 
were called praedes or mancipes, and the so-called real servitudes were referred 
to as iura praediorum. The Spanish moreover used the word prenda for bold 
enterprises, because the first bold enterprises of the world were the taming and 
cultivation of the land, which we shall find to have been the greatest of all the 
labors of Hercules. Again, a coat-of-arms was called by the Italians an ensign 
in the sense of a thing signifying, whence the Italian verb insegnare, "to teach." 
They also call it divisa, "device," because the ensigns were used as signs of 
the first division of the fields, which had previously been used in common by 
all mankind. The originally real terms [boundary posts] of these fields later 
became the vocal terms of the scholastics; that is, significant words serving as 
terms of propositions. Among the American Indians, as we have seen above, 
the hieroglyphs for distinguishing their families have a similar use as terms. 

487 The conclusion to be drawn from the foregoing is that in the time 
of mute nations the great need answered by ensigns was that for certainty of 
ownership. Later they became public ensigns in time of peace, and from these 
were derived the medals, which, with the introduction of warfare, were found 
suitable for military insignia. The latter have their primary use as hieroglyphs, 
inasmuch as wars are waged for the most part between nations differing in 
speech and hence mute in relation to each other. Striking confirmation of what 
has been so far reasoned out is to be found in the example of the eagle on the 
scepter; for this symbol was used alike by the Egyptians, the Etruscans, the 
Romans and the English, who still use it as an ornament of their royal arms. 
This by a uniformity of ideas, for in all these nations, divided though they are 
by immense tracts of land and sea, the symbol was meant to signify that the 
realms had their origins from the first divine kingdoms of Jove by virtue of his 
auspices. Finally, when commerce by means of coined money was introduced, 
it was found that these medals were suitable for use as coins, which indeed 
were for that reason called monetae from monendo by the Latins, just as in- 
segnare came from insegna among the Italians. In like fashion from the Greek 
nomos came nomisma t as Aristotle tells us; and perhaps from it too came the 


Latin numus, which the best authorities write thus with one m. In French too 
law is called lot, and the metal for coins, aloi. These terms can have had no 
other origin than the law or right signified by the hieroglyph, which is pre- 
cisely the use of medals. All of which is strikingly confirmed by the following 
names of coins: ducat from ducendo, which is said of captains; soldo, whence 
soldier; and scudo, a defensive arm, which originally meant the escutcheon or 
field of family arms, which in the beginning was the tilled land of each father in 
the time of the families, as will be shown later. This will shed light on the 
many ancient medals on which we find an altar, a lituus (the augur's rod for 
taking the auspices, as noted above), or a tripod (from which the oracle spoke, 
as is indicated by the phrase dictum ex tripode for the word of the oracle). 

488 To this sort of medals must have belonged the wings which the 
Greeks in their fables attached to all the physical objects signifying the heroic 
constitutions based on the auspices. Thus Idanthyrsus, among the real hiero- 
glyphs with which he answered Darius, sent a bird. And the Roman patricians 
in all their heroic contests with the plebs (as clearly appears in Roman history) 
for the preservation of their heroic rights maintained as law that the auspices 
were theirs. Similarly in the returned barbarism we find noble arms bearing 
plumed helmets, and in the West Indies only the nobles are adorned with 


489 The name lous, "J ve >" when contracted to ius, must have meant 
first of all the fat of the victims owed to Jove, as we have said above. Similarly 
in the returned barbarism the term canon was applied both to ecclesiastical law 
and to the payment made by the fief-holder to his immediate master; perhaps 
because the first fiefs were introduced by the ecclesiastics, who, not being 
able to cultivate them themselves, gave the fields of the Church to others to 
till. These two observations are corroborated by the two above mentioned: the 
Greek usage by which nomos means law and nomisma means coin, and the 
French usage by which lot and aloi have the same meanings. Precisely in 
the same way that was called lous optimus, for "Jove most strong," which by the 
force of the thunderbolt gave a beginning to divine authority in its primary 
sense, which was that of ownership, as we have said above, for all things were 
of Jove. 

490 That truth of rational metaphysics concerning the omnipresence of 
God, which had been taken in the false sense of poetic metaphysics: . . . lot/is 
omnia plena, "all things are full of Jove," conferred human authority on those 
giants who had occupied the first empty lands of the world, in the same sense 
of ownership. In Roman law this was certainly called ius optimum, but its 
original meaning was quite different from that in which it was used in later 
times. For it had at first the sense defined by Cicero in a golden passage in his 
orations: "ownership of real estate subject to no encumbrance private or public." 


This ius was called optimum in the same sense of "strongest," as not having 
been weakened by any extraneous encumbrance. For right was reckoned by 
strength in the first times of the world, as we shall see. This ownership must 
have belonged to the fathers in the family state, and was consequently the nat- 
ural ownership which had to precede the civil. As cities were formed by uniting 
families based on this best ownership (called in Greek difaion ariston), they 
were originally aristocratic, as we shall see later. Springing from the same 
origin among the Latins, the so-called commonwealths of the optimates were 
also called commonwealths of the few, because they were made up of those "few 
whom just Jupiter loved," pauci quos aequus amavit Jupiter. In their heroic 
contests with the plebs, the heroes maintained their heroic constitutions by 
means of the divine auspices. In mute times they signified their constitutions 
by the bird of Idanthyrsus, by the wings of the Greek fables; and finally in the 
articulate language of the Roman patricians, by declaring "the auspices are 

491 Jove with his bolts, from which the most important auspices were 
drawn, had struck down the first giants and driven them under the earth to 
live in the caves of the mountains. By striking them down in this fashion he 
had given them the opportunity of becoming lords of the fields of those lands 
where they found themselves settled in hiding, and thereby they became the 
lords in the first commonwealths; and because of this ownership, [when they 
approved or authorized anything] each of them was said to become its jundus 
in the sense of its auctor. From their private authority within the family came, 
with the union of the families, as we shall see, the civil or public authority of 
their ruling heroic senates, as set forth in the medal (of which there are so many 
examples among those of the Greek commonwealths reproduced in Goltz) de- 
picting three human thighs united in the center with the soles of the feet on 
the circumference. This signifies the ownership of the fields of each region or 
territory or district of each commonwealth. This is now called eminent domain 
and is signified by the hieroglyph of the pome which today surmounts the 
crowns of civil powers, as will be set forth later. The [fact that the legs m 
the medal are] three [in number] lends particular strength to this interpreta- 
tion, as the Greeks were accustomed to express the superlative by the number 
three, as the French now say trts for "very." By the same figure of speech, Jove's 
thunderbolt was called three-furrowed because it furrowed the air most force- 
fully. (Thus the idea of furrowing was perhaps first applied to air, then earth 
and finally water.) Similarly Neptune's trident was so called because, as we shall 
see, it was a most powerful hook for biting or grappling ships; and Cerberus 
was called three-throated as having an enormous gullet. 

492 What we have said here of family arms is to be preferred to our 
discussion of their origins in the first edition of this work, though that is the 
third passage in that edition on whose account we do not regret its publica- 



493 It follows from all this that Grotius, Selden and Pufendorf, the three 
princes of the natural law of nations, should have begun their expositions from 
the letters and laws which Hermes Trismegistus devised for the Egyptians, from 
the characters and names of the Greeks, and from the names which signify 
both gentes and laws to the Romans. And they should have gone on to unfold 
it by a well-informed interpretation of the hieroglyphs and fables as the medals 
of the times in which the gentile nations were founded; and thus to ascertain 
their customs by a metaphysical criticism of the founders of the nations, which 
should have given the first light to the philological criticism of their writers, 
who did not come forth until more than a thousand years after the nations had 
been founded. 




494 The results so far reached by the aid of this poetic logic concerning 
the origins of languages do justice to their first creators. They were rightly re- 
garded as sages in all subsequent times because they gave natural and proper 
names to things, so that, as we saw above, among the Greeks and Latins name 
and nature meant the same thing. 


495 The first founders of humanity applied themselves to a sensory 
topics, by which they brought together those properties or qualities or relations 
of individuals and species which were so to speak concrete, and from these 
created their poetic genera. 


496 So that we may truly say that the first age of the world occupied itself 
with the primary operation of the human mind. 


497 And first it began to hew out topics, which is an art of regulating 
well the primary operation of our mind by noting the commonplaces that must 
all be run over in order to know all there is in a thing that one desires to know 
well, that is, completely. 



498 Providence gave good guidance to human affairs when it aroused 
human minds first to topics rather than to criticism, for acquaintance with things 
must come before judgment of them. Topics has the function of making minds 
inventive, as criticism has that of making them exact. And in those first times 
all things necessary to human life had to be invented, and invention is the prop- 
erty of genius. In fact, whoever gives the matter some thought will observe that 
not only the necessaries of life but the useful, comfortable, pleasing and even 
luxurious and superfluous, had already been invented in Greece before the 
advent of the philosophers, as we shall show later when we speak of the age of 
Homer. On this point we have set forth an axiom above [215]: namely, that 
"children are extraordinarily gifted in imitation," that "poetry is nothing but 
imitation," and that "the arts are only imitations of nature and consequently 
in a certain sense real poetry." Thus the first peoples, who were the children of 
the human race, founded first the world of the arts; then the philosophers, who 
came a long time afterwards and so may be regarded as the old men of the 
nations, founded the world of the sciences, thereby making humanity complete. 


499 This history of human ideas is strikingly confirmed by the history 
of philosophy itself. For the first kind of crude philosophy used by men was 
autopsia or the evidence of the senses. It was later made use of by Epicurus, for 
he, as a philosopher of the senses, was satisfied with the mere exhibition of 
things to the evidence of the senses. And the senses of the first poetic nations 
were extremely lively, as we have seen in our account of the origins of poetry. 
Then came Aesop, or the moral philosophers whom we would call vulgar. (As 
we have noted above, Aesop preceded the Seven Sages of Greece.) Aesop taught 
by example and, since he lived in what was still the poetic age, he took his ex- 
amples from fictitious similitudes. (The good Menenius Agrippa used one 
such to reduce the rebellious Roman plebs to obedience.) An example of this 
sort, or better still a true one, is even now more persuasive to the ignorant crowd 
than the most impeccable reasoning from maxims. After Aesop came Socrates, 
who introduced dialectic, employing induction of several certain things related 
to the doubtful thing in question. Before Socrates, medicine, by induction of 
observations, had given us Hippocrates, prince of all doctors both in merit and 
in precedence, who earned the immortal eulogy: "He deceives no one nor is 
deceived by any" (Nee jallit quenquam, nee falsus ab ullo esi). Mathematics 
by the unitive [inductive] method called synthetic had made, in Plato's time, 
its greatest progress in the Italian school of Pythagoras, as we can see from 
the Timaeus. Thus by virtue of this unitive method, Athens at the time of 
Socrates and Plato was resplendent in all the arts for which human genius can 
be admired poetry, eloquence and history as well as music, casting in bronze, 


painting, sculpture and architecture. Then came Aristotle and Zeno. The former 
taught the syllogism, a method which displays the universals in their particulars 
rather than putting together the particulars to form universals. The latter 
taught the sorites, which, like the method of modern philosophers, makes minds 
subtle but not sharp. Neither of them yielded anything else of note to the ad- 
vantage of the human race. Hence with great reason Bacon, great alike as 
philosopher and statesman, proposes, commends and illustrates the inductive 
method in his [Novum\ Organum, and is still followed by the English with 
great profit in experimental philosophy. 


500 This history of human ideas clearly convicts of their common error 
all those who, under the influence of the mistaken popular belief in the super- 
lative wisdom of the ancients, have held that Minos, the first lawgiver of the 
gentile nations, Theseus at Athens, Lycurgus at Sparta, and Romulus and other 
kings at Rome, established universal laws. For the most ancient laws, we ob- 
serve, were conceived as commanding or forbidding one individual alone; only 
later were they given general application (so incapable of universals were the 
first peoples!); and furthermore they were not conceived at all before the acts 
occurred that made them necessary. The law of Tullus Hostilius in the case 
against Horatius is nothing else but the penalty decreed by the duumvirs, ap- 
pointed for that purpose by the king, against the illustrious culprit. Livy calls it 
lex horrendi carmtms; it is one of the laws which Draco wrote in blood, and 
sacred history calls them leges sangutnis. Livy's observation that the king did 
not wish to proclaim the law, in order not to be responsible for such a harsh and 
unpopular verdict, is quite ridiculous. For the king himself prescribed the 
formula of condemnation to the duumvirs, so that the latter could not have 
absolved Horatius even had they found him innocent. Livy is here not at all 
clear, for he did not understand that in the heroic senates, which were aristo- 
cratic as we shall see, the kings had no other power than that of creating duum- 
virs to act as commissioners to adjudicate public suits, and that the peoples of 
the heroic cities consisted of nobles only, to whom the condemned could appeal. 

501 To return now to the point, that law of Tullus is in fact one of the 
so-called examples, in the sense of exemplary punishments, which must have 
been the first examples used by human reason. (This agrees with what we 
learned from Aristotle above in the Axioms [269]: that "in the heroic common- 
wealths there were no laws concerning private wrongs or injuries.") Thus first 
came real examples and later the reasoned ones of logic and rhetoric. But when 
intelligible universals had come to be understood, that essential property of 
law that it must be universal was recognized, and the maxim of juris- 
prudence was established that we must judge by the laws, not by examples 
(legibus, non exemplis, cst iudicandum). 





502 The metaphysics of the philosophers, by means of the idea of God, 
fulfills its first task, that of clarifying the human mind, which needs logic so 
that with clear and distinct ideas it may form its conclusions, and descend 
therewith to cleanse the heart* of man with morality. Just so the metaphysics of 
the poet giants, who had warred against heaven in their atheism, conquered 
them by the terror of Jove, whom they knew as the wielder of the thunderbolt. 
And it humbled not only their bodies but their minds as well, by creating in 
them this frightful idea of Jove. (The idea was of course not formed by rea- 
soning, for they were not yet capable of that, but by the senses, which, however 
false in the matter, were true enough in form which was the logic conformable 
to such natures as theirs.) This idea, by making them god-fearing, was the 
source of their poetic morality. From this nature of human things arose the 
eternal property that minds to make good use of the knowledge of God must 
humble themselves, just as on the other hand arrogance will lead them to 
atheism, for atheists become giants in spirit, ready to say with Horace: Caelum 
if sum pettmus stultitia, "heaven itself we assail in our folly." 

503 Such god-fearing giants Plato certainly recognizes as represented by 
the Polyphemus of Homer. And we find support in what Homer himself tells 
of this same giant, in the passage where he makes him say that an augur who 
had lived at one time among the Cyclopes, had predicted the woes which he 
later suffered at the hands of Ulysses; for augurs certainly cannot live among 
atheists. Thus poetic morality began with piety, which was ordained by provi- 
dence to found the nations, for among them all piety is proverbially held to be 
the mother of all the moral, economic and civil virtues. Religion alone has the 
power to make us practice virtue, as philosophy is fit rather for discussing it. 
And piety sprang from religion, which properly defined is the fear of divinity. 


The heroic origin of the word religion was preserved among the Latins by those 
who derived it from religando, binding, with reference to those fetters with 
which Tityus and Prometheus were bound on the mountain crags to have their 
hearts and entrails devoured by the eagle, that is, by the frightful religion of 
the auspices of Jove. Hence came the eternal property among all nations, that 
piety is instilled in children by the fear of some divinity, 

504 Moral virtue began, as it must, with effort. For the giants, confined 
under the mountains by the frightful religion of the thunderbolts, learned to 
restrain their bestial habit of wandering wild through the great forest of the 
earth, and acquired the contrary custom of remaining hidden and settled in 
their fields. Hence they later became the founders of the nations and the lords 
of the first commonwealths, as we have indicated above and as we shall set 
forth more fully further on. This has been preserved by vulgar tradition as one 
of the great benefits conferred on the human race by Heaven when it reigned 
on earth through the religion of the auspices. And hence came Jove's title of 
stayer or stablisher, as we have said above. And with this effort likewise the 
virtue of moderation began to show itself among them, restraining their bestial 
lust from finding its satisfaction in the sight of heaven, of which they had a 
mortal terror. So it came about that each of them would drag one woman into 
his cave and would keep her there in perpetual company for the duration of 
their lives. Thus the act of human love was performed under cover, in hiding, 
that is to say, in shame; and they began to feel that sense of shame which 
Socrates described as the color of virtue. And this, after religion, is the second 
bond that keeps nations united, even as shamelessness and impiety destroy them. 

505 Such was the origin of marriage, which is a chaste carnal union con- 
summated under the fear of some divinity. We made this the second principle 
of our Science, with its source in our first principle, which is divine providence. 
It arose accompanied by three solemnities. 

506 The first of these solemnities was the auspices of Jove, taken from 
the thunderbolts by which the giants were induced to observe them. From this 
sors or lot [signified by the auspices], marriage was defined among the Romans 
as omnis vitac consortium, "a lifelong sharing of lot," and the husband and wife 
were called consortes or "lot-sharers." And to this day Italian girls when they 
marry are said to take up their lot, prendcr sortc. In this determinate way and 
in this first time of the world arose the law of nations that the wife follows the 
public religion of her husband. For husbands shared their first human ideas 
with their wives, beginning with the idea of a divinity of theirs which com- 
pelled them to drag their women into their caves; and thus even this vulgar 
metaphysics began to know the human mind in God. And from this first point 
of all human things gentile men began to praise the gods, in the ancient Roman 
legal sense of citing or calling them by name; whence the phrase laudarc auc- 
tores, bidding men to cite the gods as authors of whatever they themselves did. 
Such must have been the praises which men owed to the gods. 


507 From this most ancient origin of marriage came the custom by which 
women enter the families and houses of the men they marry. This natural cus- 
tom of the gentile nations was preserved by the Romans, among whom women 
were regarded as daughters of their husbands and sisters of their children. Thus 
not merely must marriage have been from the beginning a union with one 
woman only, as it continued to be among the Romans (a custom Tacitus ad- 
mires in the ancient Germans, who like the Romans kept intact the institu- 
tional origins of their nations, and who give us ground for conjecturing similar 
beginnings for all others), but it must also have been a union to last for life, 
as indeed remained the custom among a great many peoples. Hence among 
the Romans marriage was defined, with this property in view, as individua 
vitae consuetudo, "unbroken companionship of life" [Inst. 1.9.1]; and divorce 
was introduced very late among them. 

508 Proceeding from the auspices thus taken from the thunderbolts of 
Jove, fabulous Greek history describes Hercules (a [poetic] character of founders 
of nations, as we saw above and as we shall observe more closely) as born of 
Alcmena by a thunderbolt of Jove. Another great hero of Greece is Bacchus, 
born of thunderstruck Semele. This was the first reason for which the heroes 
called themselves sons of Jove; the assertion was a truth of the senses for them, 
persuaded as they were that all things were the work of the gods, as we have 
reasoned above. And this is the meaning of that passage of Roman history in 
which, to the patricians who said in the heroic contests that the auspices were 
theirs, the plebs replied that the fathers of whom Romulus had composed the 
senate, and from whom the patricians traced their descent, non esse caclo demis- 
sos t "were not descended from heaven"; for if this does not mean that the fathers 
were not heroes, it is hard to see how the reply is appropriate. Hence, to signify 
that connubium or the right to contract solemn nuptials, whose chief solemnity 
was the auspices of Jove, was the prerogative of the heroes, they represented 
noble Love as winged and blindfolded in token of his modesty, and called him 
Eros, a name similar to heros, "hero," which was their own. And they created 
a winged Hymen too, the son of Urania, whose name is from ouranos, "heaven," 
and signifies "she who contemplates the heavens" to take thence the auspices. 
Urania must have been the first of the Muses; she was defined by Homer, as we 
have noted above, as "the science of good and evil"; and she too, like the rest, 
was conceived as winged because she belonged to the heroes, as we have set forth 
above. We have also explained above the historic sense of the saying about her: 
A love pnncipium musae. She and the other Muses were held to be daughters of 
Jove (for religion gave birth to all the arts of humanity, o which Apollo, held 
to be principally the god of divination, is the presiding deity), and they "sing" 
in that sense of canerc and cantarc which means "foretell" to the Latins. 

509 The second solemnity is the requirement that the women be veiled 
in token of that sense of shame that gave rise to the first marriages in the world. 
This custom has Been preserved by all nations; among the Latins it is reflected 


in the very name "nuptials," for nuptiae is from nubendo, which means "to 
cover." And since the returned barbarian times maidens have been called vir- 
gins in capillo, "in [uncovered] hair," in distinction from married women who 
go about veiled. 

510 The third solemnity also preserved by the Romans was a certain 
show of force in taking a wife, recalling the real violence with which the giants 
dragged the first wives into their caves. And by analogy with the first lands 
which the giants had occupied by taking physical possession of them, properly 
wedded wives were said to be manucaptae, "taken by force." 

511 Out of solemnized marriages the theological poets fashioned another 
divine character, second to that of Jove; namely, Juno, the second divinity of the 
so-called gentes maiorcs. She is both wife and sister of Jove, because the first 
lawful or solemn marriages (called lawful from the solemnity of the auspices of 
Jove) must have taken place between brothers and sisters. She is queen of gods 
and men because the kingdoms were afterwards born of these legitimate mar- 
riages. And she is fully clothed, as we observe in statues and medals, to signify 

512 The heroic Venus too, called pronuba in her character of patron 
goddess of solemn marriage, covers her private parts with the girdle, which ef- 
feminate poets later embroidered with all the incentives to lust. But later, when 
the austere history of the auspices had become corrupt, Venus was believed to 
have lain with men, even as Jove with women, and to have conceived Aeneas by 
Anchises, for Aeneas was born under the auspices of this Venus. And to this 
Venus are attributed the swans shared by her with Apollo who sing in that 
sense of canere or cantare which means dwinari, "to foretell." Taking the shape 
of one of these swans Jove lies with Leda, signifying that under the auspices of 
Jove Leda conceives the egg-born Castor, Pollux and Helen. 

513 Juno is called jugalis, "of the yoke," with reference to the yoke of 
solemn matrimony for which it was called conjugium and the married pair 
conjuges. She is also known as Lucina, who brings the offspring into the light; 
not natural light, for that is shared by the offspring of slaves, but the civil light 
by reason of which the nobles are called illustrious. And she is jealous with a 
political jealousy, that from which the Romans down to the 309th year of Rome 
excluded the plebs from connublum or lawful marriage. By the Greeks however 
she was called Hera, whence the name the heroes gave themselves, for they were 
born of solemn nuptials, of which Juno was the goddess, and hence generated 
in noble love (which is the meaning of Eros), which was identical with Hymen. 
And the heroes must have been so called in the sense of "lords of the families" in 
distinction from the famuli, who as we shall see were in effect slaves. Heri had 
this same meaning in Latin, whence hcreditas for "inheritance," for which 
the native Latin word had been familia. With such an origin, hercditas must 
have meant a despotic sovereignty, and by the law of the Twelve Tables there 
was reserved to the family fathers a sovereign power of testamentary disposition, 


in the article [5.3] : Uti paterfamilias super pecunia tutelave suae rei legassit, ita 
ius esto, "As the family father has disposed concerning his property and the 
guardianship of his estate, so let it be binding." The disposing was generally 
called legare, which is a prerogative of sovereigns; thus the heir becomes a 
"legate" [legatee] who in inheriting represents the defunct paterfamilias, and 
the children no less than the slaves were included in the words rei suae and 
pecunia. All of which proves only too conclusively the monarchic power that the 
fathers had had over their families in the state of nature. This they were bound 
to retain and we shall see later that they did in fact retain it in the state of the 
heroic cities. These must in origin have been aristocratic commonwealths, that 
is, commonwealths of lords, in origin, for the fathers still retained their power 
even in the popular commonwealths. All these matters will later be discussed at 
length. < . 

514 The goddess Juno imposes great labors on the Theban, that is the 
Greek, Hercules. (For every ancient gentile nation had a Hercules as its founder, 
as we have said above in the Axioms [196].) This signifies that piety and mar- 
riage form the school wherein are learned the first rudiments of all the great 
virtues. And Hercules, with the favor of Jove under whose auspices he was 
begotten, surmounts all the difficulties. He was therefore called Heracles, that is 
Her as j(leos, the glory of [Hera or] Juno. And if glory be properly esteemed, as 
Cicero defines it, as "widespread fame for meritorious acts on behalf of the 
human race," how great a glory must it have been for the Herculeses to have 
founded the nations by their labors! But when these severe significations had 
been obscured by time and customs had become effeminate, Juno's sterility was 
taken as natural and she was held to be jealous only of an adulterous Jove. 
Hercules was then made a bastard son of Jove, who by Jove's favor and in de- 
spite of Juno had carried out all his labors. Thus he became not Juno's glory but 
her complete disgrace (by a[n interpretation of his] name quite contrary to the 
facts), and Juno was made a mortal enemy of virtue. [Originally] the hieroglyph 
or fable of Juno hanging in the air with a rope around her neck and her hands 
tied by another rope and with two heavy stones tied to her feet, had signified the 
sanctity of marriage. (Juno was in the air to signify the auspices essential to 
solemn nuptials, and for the same reason Iris was made her handmaiden and the 
peacock with its rainbow tail was assigned to her. She had a rope about her neck 
to recall the violence used by the giants on the first wives. Her hands were bound 
in token of the subjection of wives to their husbands, later represented among 
all nations by the more refined symbol of the wedding ring. The heavy stones 
tied to her feet denoted the stability of marriage, for which Vergil calls solemn 
matrimony conjugium stabile.) But now this fable was taken as representing a 
cruel punishment inflicted by an adulterous Jove, and, with the unworthy inter- 
pretations bestowed upon it by later times with corrupted customs, it has greatly 
exercised the mythplogists ever since. 

515 For these very reasons Plato interpreted the Greek fables as Manetho 


had the Egyptian hieroglyphs, observing on the one hand the incongruity of gods 
having such customs, and on the other the congruity [of the fables] with his 
own ideas. Into the fable of Jove he intruded the idea of his ether which flows 
and penetrates everywhere, on the strength of the phrase "all things are full of 
Jove" (lovis omnia plena), as we have said above. But the Jove of the 
theological poets dwelt no higher than the mountains and the region of 
the air in which lightning is generated. Into the fable of Juno he intruded the 
idea of breathable air; but Juno has no offspring by Jove, whereas ether and air 
produce everything. (So far were the theological poets from understanding by 
this fable that truth of physics which teaches that the universe is filled with 
ether, or that truth of metaphysics which demonstrates the omnipresence at- 
tributed to God by the natural theologians!) Above poetic heroism Plato raised 
his own philosophic heroism, placing the hero above man as well as beast; for 
the beast is the slave of his passions, and man, in the middle of the scale, strug- 
gles with his passions, while the hero at will commands his passions; and thus 
the heroic nature is midway between the human and the divine. And Plato 
held that the noble Love of the poets (called Eros from the same root as heros, 
"hero") was fittingly imagined as winged and blindfolded, and plebeian Love as 
without wings or blindfold, to set forth the two loves, divine and bestial; the 
one blind to the things of the senses, the other intent upon them; the one rising 
on wings to the contemplation of intelligible things, the other, for lack of wings, 
falling back upon sensible things. Ganymede, borne off to heaven by an eagle of 
Jove, and thus signifying to the austere poets the contemplator of Jove's auspices, 
became in corrupt times an ignoble pleasure of Jove; but Plato by a fine conceit 
took him for the metaphysical contemplative, who through contemplation of 
supreme being by the method he calls unitive has achieved union with Jove. 

516 In this way, piety and religion made the first men naturally (i) 
prudent, by taking counsel from the auspices of Jove; (2) just both in that first 
justice toward Jove (who, as we have seen, gave his name to the just) and in 
that toward men, by not meddling in one another's affairs, as Polyphemus tells 
Ulysses of the giants scattered among the caves of Sicily (which, though it ap- 
pears to be justice, was in fact savagery); and moreover (3) temperate, con- 
tent with one woman for their lifetime. And, as we shall see later, piety and re- 
ligion likewise made them (4) strong, industrious, and magnanimous. Such 
were the virtues of the golden age, which was not, as effeminate poets later pic- 
tured it, an age in which pleasure was law. For in the golden age of the the- 
ological poets, men insensible to every refinement of wearisome reflection took 
pleasure only in what was lawful and [regarded as lawful only what was] use- 
ful, as is still the case, we observe, with peasants. (The heroic origin of the Latin 
verb iuvare is preserved in the expression iuvat ["it helps"] for "it is pleasant/') 
Nor were the philosophers right in imagining it as an age in which men read 
the eternal laws of justice in the bosom of Jove, for at first they read in the aspect 
of the sky the laws dictated to them by the thunderbolts. In conclusion, the vir- 


tucs of that first time were such as we found [100] admired by the Scythians, 
who would fix a knife in the ground and adore it as a god, and thus justify their 
killings; thaj is, they were virtues of the senses, with an admixture of religion 
and savage cruelty, whose affinity may still be observed among witches, as we 
noted in the Axioms [190]. 

517 From this early morality of the superstitious and cruel gentile world 
came the custom of sacrificing human victims to the gods. This we have from 
the most ancient Phoenicians, among whom, when some great calamity was 
imminent, such as war, famine or pestilence, the kings sacrificed their own chil- 
dren to placate the wrath of heaven, as Philo of Byblus narrates. Such sacrifices 
of children were regularly offered to Saturn, according to Quintus Curtius. Jus- 
tin says the custom was continued by the Carthaginians, a people undoubtedly 
of Phoenician origin (as we shall observe), and was practiced by them down 
to their latest times. This is confirmed by Ennius in the verse: Et Poinel solitei 
sos sacruficare puellos, "and the Phoenicians [i.e. Carthaginians] were accus- 
tomed to sacrifice their own children." After their defeat at the hands of Agath- 
ocles, they sacrificed two hundred children to placate their gods. The Greeks fell 
in with this impiously pious custom of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians in the 
votive sacrifice Agamemnon made of his daughter Iphigema, This should cause 
no surprise to anyone who reflects upon the cyclopean paternal power of the first 
fathers of the gentile world; a power exercised by the most learned nation, the 
Greeks, and by the wisest, the Romans. In both these nations down to the times 
of their most cultivated humanity, fathers had the right to kill their newborn 
children. This consideration will certainly lessen the repugnance our modern 
mildness makes us feel for the action of Brutus in decapitating his two sons who 
had plotted to restore the tyrant Tarquinius to the rule of Rome; and for that 
of Manlius, called the Imperious, in cutting off the head of his brave son who had 
fought and won a battle against his father's orders. Caesar reports that the Gauls 
also offered sacrifices of human victims, and Tacitus in the Annals relates of the 
Britons that the divine science of the Druids (who, according to the conceit of 
the scholars, were rich in esoteric wisdom) divined the future from the entrails 
of human victims. This cruel and frightful religion was prohibited by Augustus 
to Romans living in Gaul, and it was forbidden to the Gauls themselves by 
Claudius, according to Suetonius in his life of that emperor. Students of ori- 
ental languages thus hold that the Phoenicians had spread through the rest of 
the world the sacrifices of Moloch (identified with Saturn by Mornay, van der 
Driesche and Selden), to whom they offered a man burnt alive. Such was the 
humanity which the Phoenicians, who brought letters to Greece, went about 
inculcating in the first nations of the most barbarous gentiles! It is said that 
Hercules had purged Latium of a like fearful custom, that of throwing living 
men into the Tiber as sacrifices, and that he had introduced instead the practice 
of throwing in men of straw. But Tacitus tells of solemn human sacrifices 
among the ancient Germans, who certainly throughout all remembered time 


were cut off from all foreign nations, so that the Romans with all the strength 
in the world could not penetrate among them. The Spaniards too found such 
rites in America, which until two centuries ago was hidden from all the rest of 
the world. The barbarians there feasted on human flesh (according to Lcscarbot, 
Histoire de la nouvelle France), which must have been that of men who had been 
consecrated and killed by them. (Such sacrifices are described by Oviedo, 
Hystoria . . . de las Indias.) So that, while the ancient Germans were behold- 
ing the gods on earth, and the American Indians likewise (as we have noted of 
both above), and while the most ancient Scythians were rich in so many golden 
virtues as we have heard them praised for by the writers in these same times 
they were practicing such inhuman humanity! All these [human sacrifices] were 
those called in Plautus Saturni hostiae, Saturn's victims, at a time that writers 
call the golden age of Latium. Such a mild, benign, sober, decent and well- 
behaved time it was! 

518 We may conclude from all this how empty has been the conceit of 
the learned concerning the innocence of the golden age observed in the first 
gentile nations. In fact it was a fanaticism of superstition which kept the first 
men of the gentiles, savage, proud and most cruel as they were, in some sort 
of restraint by main terror of a divinity they had imagined. Reflecting on this 
superstition, Plutarch poses the problem whether it was a lesser evil thus im- 
piously to venerate the gods than not to believe in them at all. But he is not just 
in weighing this cruel superstition against atheism, for from the former arose 
the most enlightened nations while no nation in the world was ever founded on 
atheism, as we have shown above in the Principles [334]. 

519 So much may be said of the divine morality of the first peoples of 
the lost human race. The heroic morality we shall discuss in its place. 





520 The heroes apprehended with human senses those two truths which 
make up the whole of economic doctrine, and which were preserved in the two - 
Latin verbs educere and educare. In the prevailing best usage the first of these 
applies to the education of the spirit and the second to that of the body. The 
first, by a learned metaphor, was transferred by the natural philosophers to the 
bringing forth of forms from matter. For heroic education began to bring forth 
in a certain way the form of the human soul which had been completely sub- 
merged in the vast bodies of the giants, and began likewise to bring forth the 
form of the human body itself in its just dimensions from the disproportionate 
giant bodies. 

521 As regards the first part, the heroic fathers, as we noted in the 
Axioms [250], must have been, in the state called that of nature, the wise men 
in the wisdom of the auspices or vulgar wisdom, and consequently they must 
have been the priests who, as being more worthy, had the duty of making 
sacrifices in order to take or understand well the auspices. And finally they must 
also have been the kings who had the duty of carrying the laws from the gods 
to their own families; that is, they were legislators in the proper sense of the 
word, "bearers of laws," as were later the first kings in the heroic cities. For these 
carried the laws from the reigning senates to the people, as we have observed 
above in the Notes on the Chronological Table [67], in the two kinds of heroic 
assemblies described by Homer, the Boule and the Agora. In the former the 
heroes decreed the laws orally and in the latter they published them also orally, 
for letters had not yet been invented. The kings bore the laws from the reigning 
senates in the persons of the duumvirs whom they had appointed to announce 
the laws, as Tullijs Hostilius did in the case against Horatius. The duumvirs 


thus came to be living and speaking laws. It is this which Livy does not under- 
stand, and hence he does not make himself clear in his account of the sentence 
of Horatius, as we observed above. 

522 This vulgar tradition together with the false belief in the matchless 
wisdom of the ancients tempted Plato to a vain longing for those times in which 
philosophers reigned or kings were philosophers. And certainly the fathers, as 
noted in the Axioms [256], must have been monarchic family kings, superior to 
all other members of their families and subject only to God. Their authority 
was fortified by frightful religions and sanctioned by dreadful punishments, as 
must have been that of the Cyclopes, in whom Plato recognizes the first family- 
fathers of the world. This tradition, misunderstood, gave rise to that common 
error of all political theorists, that the first form of civil government in the 
world was monarchic. They are thus given over to those false principles of evil 
politics: that civil governments were born either of open violence or of fraud 
which later broke out into violence. But [the truth is that] in those times, full 
of arrogance and savagery because of the fresh emergence from bestial liberty 
(on which we have set forth an axiom [290] above), in the extreme simplicity 
and crudeness of a life content with the spontaneous fruits of nature, satisfied to 
drink the water of the springs and to sleep in the caves, in the natural equality 
of a state in which each of the fathers was sovereign in his own family, one 
cannot conceive of either fraud or violence by which one man could subject all 
the others to a civil monarchy. Further proof of this will be set forth later on. 

523 Here, however, we may be permitted to reflect how much it took 
for the men of the gentile world to be tamed from their feral native liberty 
through a long period of cyclopean family discipline to the point of obeying nat- 
urally the laws in the civil states which were to come later. Hence there re- 
mained the eternal property that happier than the commonwealth conceived by 
Plato are those where the fathers teach only religion and where they are ad- 
mired by their sons as their sages, revered as their priests, and feared as their 
kings. Such and so much divine force was needed to reduce these giants, as 
savage as they were crude, to human duties. Since they were unable to express 
this force abstractly, they represented it in concrete physical form as a cord, 
called chorda in Greek and in Latin at first fides, whose original and proper 
meaning appears in the phrase fides deorum, "force of the gods." From this 
cord (for the lyre must have begun with the monochord) they fashioned the 
lyre of Orpheus, to the accompaniment of which, singing to them the force of 
the gods in the auspices, he reduced the beasts of Greece to humanity. And 
Amphion raised the walls of Thebes with stones that moved themselves. These 
were the stones which Deucalion and Pyrrha, standing before the temple of 
Themis (that is, in the fear of divine justice) with veiled heads (the modesty 
of marriage) found lying before their feet (for men were at first stupid and 
lapis, "stone," remained Latin for a stupid person) and threw over their shoul- 
ders (introducing family orders by means of household discipline), thus making 


men of them, as this fable was explained in the [Notes to the] Chronological 

Table [791. 

524 As for the other part of household discipline, the education of bodies, 
the fathers with their frightful religions, their cyclopean authority and their 
sacred ablutions began to educe or bring forth from the giant bodies of their 
sons the proper human form, in accordance with what we have said above. And 
herein is providence above all to be admired, for it ordained that until such 
time as domestic education should supervene, the lost men should become giants 
in order that in their feral wanderings they might better endure with their ro- 
bust constitutions the inclemency of the heavens and the seasons, and that they 
might with their disproportionate strength penetrate the great forest of the earth 
(which must have been very dense as a result of the recent flood), so that, fleeing 
from wild beasts and pursuing reluctant women and thus becoming lost from 
each other, they might be scattered through it in search of food and water until 
it should be found in due time fully populated; while after they began to re- 
main in one place with their women, first in caves, then in huts near perennial 
springs (as we shall presently relate), and in the fields which, brought under 
cultivation, gave them sustenance, providence ordained that, from the causes we 
are now setting forth, they should shrink to the present proper stature of man- 

525 In the very birth of [domestic] economy, they fulfilled it in its best 
idea, which is that the fathers by labor and industry should leave a patrimony 
to their sons, so that they may have an easy and comfortable and secure sub- 
sistence, even if foreign commerce should fail, or even all the fruits of civil life, 
or even the cities themselves, so that in such last emergencies the families at least 
may be preserved, from which there is hope that the nations may rise again. And 
the patrimony they leave should include places with good air, with their own 
perennial water supply, in situations of natural strength whither withdrawal 
is possible in case the cities have to be abandoned, and in fields with wide bot- 
tom lands on which to maintain the poor peasants taking refuge with them 
on the downfall of the cities, by whose labor they can maintain themselves as 
lords. Such were the orders that providence established for the state of the 
families, not like a tyrant laying down laws but like the queen it is of human 
affairs working through customs, according to the saying of Dion which we 
cited in the Axioms [308]. For the strong men were found with their lands 
on the mountain heights, in air stirred by the wind and hence healthful, and in 
sites naturally strong, which were the first arces in the world, later fortified by 
the devices of military architecture (as in Italian steep rugged mountains were 
called rocce, whence later the term rocche for fortresses), and finally they were 
found near perennial springs, which for the most part rise in the mountains. 
Near such springs the birds of prey make their nests, and consequently in their 
vicinity hunters set their snares. Perhaps for this reason all birds of prey were 
called aquilac by the Latins, as if for aquilegae, for certainly aquilcx retained the 


sense of finder or conductor of water. For doubtless those birds whose auspices 
Romulus observed to fix the site of the new city were vultures as history tells 
us, but later became eagles and the protecting deities of all the Roman armies. 
Thus simple and uncouth men, following the eagles which they believed to be 
birds of Jove because they flew high in the heavens, discovered the perennial 
springs and hence venerated this other great benefit which Heaven had be- 
stowed upon them when it reigned on earth. And after the auspices of the 
lightning, the most august were those of the eagle's flight. These were called by 
Messala and Corvinus major or public auspices, and it was to them that the 
Roman patricians referred when in the heroic contests they answered the plebs 
that the auspices were theirs (auspicia cssc sua). All this, ordained by providence 
to give a beginning to gentile humanity, was regarded by Plato as the result of 
wise human measures on the part of the first founders of the cities. But in the 
returned barbarism which destroyed cities everywhere, it was in just this way 
that the families were preserved whence sprang the new nations of Europe. And 
all the new seigniories which then arose were called ca Stella by the Italians, for 
we may observe generally that the most ancient cities and almost all the capitals 
of peoples were placed on the crests of mountains, while the villages on the other 
hand lie scattered on the plains. Such must be the origin of the Latin phrases 
summo loco, illustn loco nati to signify "nobles," and tmo loco, obscuro loco nati 
for "plebeians"; for, as we shall see later, the heroes dwelt in the cities, the 
famuli in the plains. 

526 However, above all else, it was with reference to these perennial 
springs that political theorists asserted that the sharing of water was the occasion 
for families being brought together in their vicinity. Hence the first communities 
were called phratriat by the Greeks as the first lands were called pagl by the 
Latins from the Dorian Greek for "spring, 55 paga; that is, water, the first of the 
two principal solemnities of marriage. For the Romans celebrated marriage 
aqua et igm because the first marriages were naturally contracted between men 
and women sharing the same water and fire, that is, of the same family; whence, 
as we have said above, marriage must have begun between brothers and sisters. 
And the lar of each house was the god of the fire aforesaid; hence focus lans 
for the hearth where the family father sacrificed to the household gods. In the 
Law of the Twelve Tables, in the article on parricide, according to the reading 
of Jacobus Raevardus, these gods are called dcivci parentum. A similar expres- 
sion is frequently found in Holy Scripture: Deus parentum nostrorum, the God 
of our fathers, or, more explicitly, De us Abraham, Deus Isac, Deus lacob, the 
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. On this matter there is also the law proposed 
by Cicero, Sacra jamiliana perpetua manento, "let sacred family rites be per- 
petually maintained"; whence the phrase of such frequent occurrence in Roman 
laws by which a son of a family is said to be in sacns patcrnis, and the paternal 
power itself is called sacra patria, for in the first times, as this work demonstrates, 
all its judgments were believed to be sacred. It must be added that a like custom 


was observed by the barbarians who came in after; for in Florence in Giovanni 
Boccaccio's time (as he attests in his Genealogies of the Gods) it was the custom 
for the father of a family at the beginning of each year to sit at the hearth and 
throw incense and sprinkle wine on the end of a log to which he had set fire. 
And among the lower classes of our own Naples the Christmas Eve custom is 
observed which calls for the father of the house solemnly to set fire to such a 
log in the hearth. Indeed in the Kingdom of Naples families are counted by 
hearthfires. When cities were later founded the custom became universal of 
contracting marriages between those of the same city; and there finally remained 
the rule that when marriages are contracted between those of different cities 
or countries they should at least have religion in common. 

527 To return now from fire to water, the Styx, by which the gods swore, 
was the source of the springs; hence the gods must have been the nobles of the 
heroic cities (as noted above), for the sharing of the water had given them 
dominion over men. Hence down to the 309th year of Rome the patricians ex- 
cluded the plebs from connubium, as we have said above and as we shall set forth 
at greater length farther on. For all these reasons we often read in Holy Writ 
of the "well of the oath" or the "oath of the well." Thus the city of Pozzuoli pre- 
serves in its name an indication of its great antiquity, for it was called Puteoli on 
account of the number of small wells it contained. And it is a reasonable conjec- 
ture, based on the Mental Dictionary of which we have spoken, that the many 
cities with plural names scattered through the ancient nations received their 
names from the things signified by the singulars of the same names in the several 
articulate languages. 

528 From this source imagination conceived the third major deity, Diana, 
representing the first human need which made itself felt among the giants 
when they had settled on definite lands and united in marriage with particular 
women. The theological poets have described the history of these things in two 
fables of Diana. The first, signifying the modesty of marriage, tells of Diana 
silently lying with the sleeping Endymion under the darkness of night; so that 
Diana is chaste with that chastity referred to in a law proposed by Cicero, Deos 
caste adeunto, that one should go to the sacrifice only after making the sacred 
ablutions. The other tells us of the fearful religion of the water-springs, to 
which was attached the perpetual epithet of sacred. It is the tale of Actaeon, who, 
seeing Diana naked (the living spring) and being sprinkled with water by the 
goddess (to signify that the goddess cast over him the great awe of her divinity), 
was changed into a stag (the most timid of animals) and torn to pieces by his 
dogs (the remorse of his own conscience for the violation of religion). Hence 
lymphati (properly, sprinkled with lympha or pure water) must have been 
originally a term applied to the Actaeons who had been maddened by super- 
stitious terror. This poetic history was preserved by the Latins in their word 
latices (evidently from latendo), to which is always added the epithet part, 
and which means the water gushing from a spring. The latices of the Latins 


must have been identical with the Greek nymphs, handmaidens of Diana, for 
nymphai in Greek meant the same as lymphae [in Latin], The nymphs were 
so named at a time when all things were apprehended as animate and for the 
most part human substances, as we have set forth above in the [ Poetic J Meta- 

529 Afterwards, the god-fearing giants, those settled in the mountains, 
must have become sensible of the stench from the corpses of their dead rotting 
on the ground near by, and must have begun to bury them; for enormous skulls 
and bones have been found and are still found, generally on mountain tops, 
which is a strong indication that the bodies of the impious giants who were 
scattered everywhere through the valleys and the plains must have rotted un- 
buried and their skulls and bones must have been swept into the sea by the 
rivers or completely worn away by the rains. And they surrounded these 
sepulchers with so much religion, or divine terror, that burial grounds were 
called by the Latins religious places par excellence. Hence emerged the uni- 
versal belief in the immortality of human souls, which we established above in 
the Principles as the third of those on which our Science is based. [The souls 
of the departed] were called dii manes, and in the Law of the Twelve Tables in 
the article on parricide they are spoken of as deivei parentum. Furthermore, 
they must have fixed a stake as a burial marker upon or near the mound, which 
originally can have been nothing but a slight rounding over of the earth. (The 
ancient Germans, according to Tacitus, believed that they should not cover the 
dead with overmuch earth, whence the prayer for the dead, Sit tibi terra levis, 
"May the earth lie light upon thee!" And this German practice permits us to 
conjecture that the same custom must have prevailed among all the other first 
barbarous nations.) The grave marker was called by the Greeks the phylax or 
guardian, because these simple people believed that the post would guard the 
grave. Cippus, the Latin name for the post, came to mean sepulcher, and ceppo 
in Italian means the trunk of a genealogical tree. Phylax must accordingly have 
been the origin of the Greek phyle, a tribe. And the Romans set forth their 
genealogies by placing the statues of their ancestors in rows along the halls of 
their houses, and these rows were called stemmata. (This term must have been 
derived from temen, "thread"; whence subtemen for the thread that is carried 
under as weft in weaving cloth.) The jurisconsults later called these genealogical 
rows lineac or "lines," and down to our time stemmata has kept the meaning 
of family arms. Thus it is highly probable that the first lands with such 
buried bodies were the first shields of the families, and the phrase of the Spartan 
mother, presenting the shield to her son as he goes to war, aut cum hoc, aut in 
hoc, must be understood as meaning, "return with this or on a bier." Even to 
this day in Naples the bier is called a shield (scudo). And since the sepulchers 
were at the lower end of the fields, which were at first fields for plartting, the 
shield is defined in the science of heraldry as the base of the field, later called 
the base of the arms. 


530 From the same origin must have come the word filius, which, 
qualified by the name or house of the father, signified noble, precisely as we 
saw above that the Roman patrician was defined as one qui potest nomine ciere 
patrem, "who can name his father." And we saw above that the names of the 
Romans were really patronymics, which were so often used by the first Greeks; 
Homer, for example, calling the heroes fihi Achivorum, "sons of the Achaeans"; 
and in like fashion in Holy Scripture fihi Israel is used of the nobles of the 
Hebrew people. Hence necessarily, if the tribes were originally composed of 
nobles, the cities must at first have been made up of nobles alone, as we shall 
show later. 

531 Thus by the graves of their buried dead the giants showed their 
dominion over their lands, and Roman law called for burial of the dead in a 
proper place to make it religious. With truth they could pronounce those heroic 
phrases: we are sons of this earth, we are born from these oaks. Indeed the heads 
of families among the Latins called themselves stirpcs and stipites, "stems" or 
"stocks," and their progeny were called propagines, "slips" or "shoots." In 
Italian such families were called legnaggi, "lineages." And the most noble houses 
of Europe and almost all its reigning families take their names from the lands 
over which they rule. Thus in Latin and Greek alike son of the earth means 
the same thing as noble; and in Latin ingenui, "the indigenous ones," as if for 
indegeniti or the shorter form ingeniti, meant the nobles; as certainly mdigcnae 
retained the meaning of natives of a country. Dn indigetcs was the term used for 
the native gods, who must have been the nobles of the heroic cities, for they were 
called gods, as we have said above, and the Earth was their great mother. Hence 
from the beginning ingenuus and patricius meant noble, for the first cities were 
of nobles only; and these ingenui must have been the aborigines, styled as it 
were "without origin" or self-born, to which correspond exactly the Greek 
autochthones. And the aborigines were giants, and the term giants properly 
signifies sons of Earth. Thus, as the fables faithfully tell us, Earth was the mother 
of gods and giants. 

532 These matters have already been set forth above, but here in their 
proper place we have repeated them to show that Livy [1.8] misattributed the 
heroic phrase to Romulus and the fathers who were his companions when he 
made them say to those who had taken refuge in the asylum opened in the clear- 
ing that they were sons of that land; and he makes that become in their mouths 
a barefaced lie which in [the case of] the founders of the first peoples had been 
a heroic truth. For on the one hand Romulus was recognized as of the royal 
family of Alba, and on the other hand their mother [earth] had been so unjust 
to them as to give birth only to men, so that they had to carry off the Sabine 
maidens to be their wives. We must therefore say that, in the manner the first 
peoples had of thinking in terms of poetic characters, Romulus, regarded as the 
founder of a city, was invested with the properties of the founders of the first 
cities of LatiunV in the midst of a great number of which Romulus founded 


Rome. Linked with the aforesaid error of Livy is the definition he gives of the 
asylum, that it was vetus urbes condentium consilium, "an old counsel of 
founders of cities"; for in the first founders of cities, who were simple men, it 
was not counsel but nature that was employed by providence. 

533 Imagination here created the fourth divinity of the so-called gentes 
maiores; namely, Apollo, apprehended as god of civil light. Thus the heroes 
were called %leitoi, "resplendent," by the Greeks, from t(leos, "glory," and they 
were called inclyti by the Latins from cluer, "the splendor of arms," and con- 
sequently from that light into which Juno Lucina brought noble offspring. So 
here, after Urania whom we noted above to be the Muse defined by Homer 
as the science of good and evil, or of divination, in virtue of which Apollo is 
the god of poetic wisdom or divination they must have conceived the second 
of the Muses, Clio, the narrator of heroic history. The first history of this sort 
must have begun with the genealogies of the heroes, just as sacred history be- 
gins with the descendants of the patriarchs. Apollo begins this history by pur- 
suing Daphne, a vagabond maiden wandering through the forests (in the 
nefarious life); and she, by the aid she besought of the gods (whose auspices 
were necessary for solemn nuptials), on standing still is changed to a laurel (a 
plant which is ever green in its certainly known offspring), in the same sense 
in which the Latins use stipttcs for the stocks of families; and the returned bar- 
barism brought back the same heroic phraseology, for they call genealogies 
trees, and the founders they call stocks or stems, and the descendants branches, 
and the families lineages. Hence the pursuit of Apollo was the act of a god, and 
the flight of Daphne that of an animal; but later, when the language of this 
austere history had been forgotten, it came about that the pursuit of Apollo 
was viewed as the act of a libertine, and the flight of Daphne as the reaction of 
a woman. 

534 Further, Apollo is the Brother of Diana, for the perennial springs 
made possible the founding of the first nations on the mountain tops; where- 
fore Apollo has his seat on Mount Parnassus where dwell the Muses (the arts of 
humanity), near the fount of Hippocrene, whose waters give drink to the swans, 
birds that sing in that sense in which the Latin verbs cancre and cantare mean 
"to predict." Under the auspices of one of these swans, as we have said above, 
Leda conceives two eggs and from one of them gives birth to Helen and from 
the other to the twins Castor and Pollux. 

535 And Apollo and Diana are children of Latona, so called from latere, 
"to hide" (the sense which condere originally had in the phrases condere gentes, 
condere regna, condere urbes) 9 whence in Italy the name of Latium. And Latona 
brought forth her children near the waters of the perennial springs we have men- 
tioned; and at their birth men became frogs, which in summer rains are born 
from the earth, called mother of giants, for these are properly sons of Earth. One 
of these frogs was sent by Idanthyrsus to Darius, and it must be three frogs and 
not three toads that appear in the royal arms of France, later changed to golden 


lilies. And since the number three was used for the superlative a usage which 
persisted in the French tres the three frogs mean one great frog, which is to 
say a great son, and therefore lord, of the earth. 

536 Apollo and Diana are both hunters, slaying beasts with uprooted 
trees, one of which is the club of Hercules. They do this first in defense of them- 
selves and their families (since they are no longer permitted to save themselves 
by flight as the vagabonds of the lawless life had done), and later to provide 
food. Thus Vergil makes the heroes feast on such game; and with like purpose, 
according to Tacitus, the ancient Germans and their wives hunted down the 

537 Apollo is also the founding god of humanity and of its arts, which 
we have just seen to be the Muses. These arts the Latins call liberates in the 
sense of noble. One of them is the art of riding, whence Pegasus soars over 
Mount Parnassus armed with wings because he pertains to the nobility. And 
in the returned barbarism the nobles were called cavaliers by the Spaniards be- 
cause only they could don armor [for fighting] on horseback. This humanity 
had its origin in humare, "to bury" (which is the reason we took the practice 
of burial as the third principle of our Science), and the Athenians, who were 
the most human of all the nations, were, according to Cicero, the first to bury 
their dead. 

538 Lastly, Apollo is always young (just as the life of Daphne, changed 
to a laurel, is always verdant), for Apollo, through the names of the great 
houses, makes men eternal in their families. And he wears his hair long as a 
sign of nobility. The custom of wearing the hair long was preserved by the 
nobility of many nations, and we read that one of the punishments of nobles 
among both the Persians and the American Indians was to pull one or several 
hairs from their heads. And perhaps Galha comata, Long-haired [Transalpine] 
Gaul, was so called from the nobles who founded that nation; as certainly the 
slaves in all nations have their heads shaved. 

539 Now, however, when the heroes had settled within circumscribed 
lands and when with the increase of their families the spontaneous fruits of 
nature were no longer sufficient, while yet they feared to seek for abundance 
beyond the confines they had set for themselves by those chains of religion by 
which the giants were chained under the mountains, and having been taught by 
that same religion to set fire to the forests in order to have a prospect of the open 
sky whence came the auspices, they then set about the long, arduous, and heavy 
task of bringing their lands under cultivation and sowing them with grain, 
which, roasted among the thorns and briers, they had perhaps discovered to be 
useful for human nourishment. Hereupon, by a fine natural and necessary meta- 
phor, they called the ears of grain golden apples, transferring the idea of the 
apples which are fruits of nature gathered in summer, to the ears of grain which 
human industry gathers likewise in summer. 

540 From this labor, the greatest and most glorious of all, the [ poetic] 


character of Hercules sprang up, reflecting great glory on Juno who set this task 
for the nourishment of the families. And, in other metaphors both beautiful 
and necessary, they imagined the earth in the aspect of a great dragon, covered 
with scales and spines (the thorns and briers), bearing wings (for the lands 
belonged to the heroes), always awake and vigilant (thickly grown in every 
direction). This dragon they made the guardian of the golden apples in the 
garden of the Hesperides. Because of the wetness from the waters of the flood, 
the dragon was later believed to have been born in the water. Under another 
aspect they imagined fthe earth as] a hydra (also from hyddr, "water"), which, 
when any of its heads were cut off, always grew others in their place. It was of 
three alternating colors: black (the burnt-over land), green (the leaf), and gold 
(the ripe grain). These are the three colors of the serpent's skin, which, when 
it grows old, is sloughed off for a fresh one. Finally, under the aspect of its fierce- 
ness in resisting cultivation, the earth was also imagined as a most powerful 
beast, the Nemean lion (whence later the name lion was given to the most 
powerful of the animals); which philologists hold to have been a monstrous ser- 
pent. All these beasts vomit forth fire, which is the fire set to the forests by 

541 These three different stories, from three different parts of Greece, 
signify the same thing in substance. In another part of Greece another story 
grew up, telling of the child Hercules slaying the serpents while yet in his 
cradle; that is, in the infancy of the heroic age. In yet another, Bellerophon 
slays the monster called the Chimaera, having the tail of a serpent, the body of 
a goat (to signify the enforested earth), and the head of a lion belching flames. 
In Thebes it is Cadmus who slays the great dragon and sows his teeth. (By a 
fine metaphor they gave the name of serpents teeth to the curved pieces of hard 
wood which must have been used to plough the earth before the use of iron was 
discovered.) Cadmus himself becomes a serpent (the ancient Romans would 
have said Cadmus fundus jactus est), as we have indicated above and as we shall 
explain more fully later on, when we shall see that the serpents of Medusa's head 
and Mercury's staff signified the dominion of the lands. Hence land rent was 
called ofhcleia from ophis> "serpent," and was also called the tithe of Hercules. 
It is in this sense that we read in Homer of the soothsayer Calchas interpreting 
the action of the serpent in devouring the eight swallows and their mother as 
meaning that the land of Troy would fall under the dominion of the Greeks at 
the end of nine years; so that the Greeks, while fighting the Trojans, when a 
serpent is slain by an eagle in the air and falls among them in the midst of the 
battle, take it for a good augury in conformity with the soothsaying science of 
Calchas. Hence Proserpine, who was the same as Ceres, is depicted in sculpture 
as being borne off in a chariot drawn by serpents, and hence serpents so often 
appear on the coins of the Greek commonwealths. 

542 Thus, in illustration of the Mental Dictionary (and it is a matter 
worthy of reflection), the kings of the American Indians, as Fracastoro sings in 


his Syphilis, were found to carry a dried snakeskin in place of a scepter. The 
Chinese too charge their royal arms with a dragon and bear a dragon as the 
emblem of the civil power. Such must have been the Dragon [Draco] who wrote 
the Athenian laws in blood; and we remarked above that this Dragon was one 
of the serpents of the Gorgon, nailed by Perseus to his shield, which later be- 
came the shield of Minerva, goddess of the Athenians, and its aspect turned to 
stone whoever gazed upon it; and this will be found to have been a hieroglyph 
of the civil power of Athens. Holy Scripture too, in the book of Ezekiel, bestows 
on the king of Egypt the title of the great dragon lying in the midst of his rivers, 
just as the dragons noted above were born in the water and the Hydra took 
its name from that element. The emperor of Japan has created an order of knights 
who bear the dragon as their device. And in the returned barbarian times the 
histories tell us that the house of the Visconti because of its great nobility was 
called to the duchy of Milan, and this house bears on its arms a dragon de- 
vouring a child, which is none other than the Python which devoured the men 
of Greece and was slain by Apollo, the god of nobility as we have seen. This 
blazoning may well cause astonishment at the uniformity between the heroic 
mode of thought of the men of this second barbarism and that of the ancients 
of the first. Such must be the two winged dragons wearing the necklace of 
flints by which the fire they vomit forth was kindled; the two guardians, that 
is, of the Golden Fleece, whose significance Chiflet, who wrote the history of 
that illustrious order, could not understand, so that Pietrasanta avows its his- 
tory obscure. 

543 As in some parts of Greece it was Hercules who killed the serpents, 
the lion, the Hydra, or the dragon, and in another it was Bellerophon who slew 
the Chimaera, so in yet another it is Bacchus who tames the tigers, which must 
have been the lands clothed in colors as varied as their skin, and hence the name 
tiger passed to the animals of this powerful species. The story of Bacchus 
taming the tigers with wine is a physical history far from the thought of the 
rustic heroes who founded the nations, nor was it ever related in those times 
that Bacchus went to Africa or to Hyrcania to tame them, for the Greeks, as we 
shall show in our Poetic Geography, could not then have known if there was a 
Hyrcania in the world, much less an Africa, to say nothing of tigers in the 
forests of Hyrcania or the deserts of Africa. 

544 Further, when they called the ears of grain golden apples, these must 
have been the only gold in the world. For at that time metallic gold was still 
unmined, and they did not know how to extract it in crude masses, to say 
nothing of shining and burnishing it; nor indeed, when men still drank the 
water of springs, could the use of gold have been at all prized. It was only later, 
from the metal's resemblance in color to the most highly prized food of those 
times, that it was metaphorically called gold. Hence Plautus was obliged to say 
thcsaurum auri to distinguish a hoard of gold from a granary. Certainly Job, 
among the great things from which he had fallen, mentions that he had been 


wont to eat bread made of grain. And in the country districts of our most re- 
mote provinces, in place of the juleps of powdered pearls used in cities, they 
give bread made from grain to the sick, and they say the sick man is eating 
grain bread when they mean that he is at the point of death. 

545 Later, by a further extension of the idea of prizing and cherishing, 
they must have applied the term golden to fine wool. Hence in Homer Atreus 
complains that Thyestes has stolen his golden sheep, and the Argonauts stole 
from Pontus the Golden Fleece. For this reason Homer gives his kings and 
heroes the fixed epithet polymelos, "rich in flocks"; as the ancient Latins, by 
uniformity of ideas, called the patrimony pecunia, which the Latin grammarians 
derive from pecus, "herd" or "flock." Among the ancient Germans, in Tacitus's 
account, the flocks and herds are their most highly prized, indeed their only 
wealth (solae ct gratissimae opes sunt). This custom must also have prevailed 
among the ancient Romans, whose patrimony was pecunia, as the Law of the 
Twelve Tables attests in the article on testaments. And melon means both apple 
and sheep to the Greeks, who, perhaps also under the aspect of precious fruit, 
called honey meli; and the Italians call apples mele. 

546 These ears of grain must then have been the golden apples which 
Hercules was the first to bring back (or harvest) from Hesperia. The Gallic 
Hercules, with chains of this gold issuing from his mouth, binds men by the 
ears; this too we shall find later is a history of the cultivation of the fields. Hence 
Hercules was a propitious deity in the search for treasures, of which Dis was the 
god. Dis is the same as Pluto, who carries Proserpine, who is the same as Ceres 
(that is, grain), into the underworld of which the poets tell us. According to 
them there were three underworlds: the first by the Styx, the second where the 
dead lay, and the third at the bottom of the furrow, as we shall show in its proper 
place. From this god Dis the rich are called ditcs, and the rich were the nobles. 
The Spaniards call their nobles rich men (ricos hombres) and among us the 
nobles were formerly called benestanti, ''well off." The ancient Latins called dido 
what we now call the domain of a state, for the cultivated fields make up the 
true wealth of states; and in like fashion the Latins called the area of a domain 
ager, which is properly land which has been put to the plough (aratro agitur). 
So it must be true that the Nile was called Chrysorrhoas, "flowing with gold," be- 
cause it overflows the wide fields of Egypt and its inundations are the source of 
the great abundance of the harvests. So too the Pactolus, the Ganges, the 
Hydaspes and the Tagus are called rivers of gold because they make fertile the 
fields of grain. Vergil must have had these golden apples in mind when, learned 
in heroic antiquities as he was, he extended the metaphor and created the golden 
bough that Aeneas carries into the lower world. This fable we shall explain 
later in its more proper place. For the rest, metallic gold was not more highly 
prized than iron in heroic times. Etearchus, for example, king of Ethiopia, reply- 
ing to the ambassadors of Cambyses who had presented him with many golden 
vessels in the name of their king, said that he could see no use for them and 


much less any need, thus refusing them with a magnanimity that was quite 
natural. Tacitus relates the same of the ancient Germans, who in his time were 
just such ancient heroes as those of whom we are now speaking: "You may see 
among them vessels of silver, which have been presented to their envoys and 
chieftains, held as cheap as those of clay." So in Homer we find the armories of 
the heroes stocked with arms of iron or gold indifferently, for the first world 
must have abounded in these minerals (as America was found to do at its dis- 
covery), which were later to be exhausted by human avarice. 

547 From all of which we derive this great corollary: that the division 
of the four ages of the world that is, the ages of gold, silver, copper and iron 
was invented by the poets of degenerate times. For it was this poetic gold, 
namely, grain, that among the Greeks lent its name to the golden age, whose in- 
nocence was but the extreme savagery of the Cyclopes (in whom, as we have 
said several times above, Plato recognizes the first fathers of families), who 
lived separately and alone in their caves with their wives and children, never 
concerning themselves with one another's affairs, as Polyphemus tells Ulysses in 

548 In confirmation of all we have so far said of the poetic gold, it may 
be useful to cite two customs which are still observed and the causes of which 
can be explained only on these principles. The first is the custom of putting a 
golden globe [porno, "apple"] in the hands of the king in the midst of the 
solemnities of his coronation. This is evidently the same [pome or globe] that 
they bear in their royal arms, surmounting their crowns. This custom can have 
no other origin than the golden apples of grain we are here discussing. For here 
too the apples will be found to be a hieroglyph of the dominion of the heroes 
over their lands (which perhaps the Egyptians too signified by an apple, if it 
is not an egg, in the mouth of their [god Knuphis or] Knef, of whom we shall 
speak later on). And this hieroglyph, we shall find, was carried by the barbarians 
who invaded all the nations subject to the Roman Empire. The other custom is 
that of the gold coins which kings give their queen consorts among the other 
solemnities of their nuptials. These too must go back to the poetic gold or grain 
of which we are speaking (for the gold coins signify the heroic nuptials of the 
ancient Romans coemptions et farre f "by mutual mock sale and bread offering"), 
in conformity with the heroic practice related by Homer of buying their wives 
with a wedding gift. It was in a shower of this gold that Jove must have appeared 
to Danae locked in her tower (which must have been the granary), to signify 
the abundance of this solemnity. In striking agreement is the Hebrew phrase 
"and abundance in thy towers" (et abundantia in turribus tuis [Ps. 122:7]). The 
conjecture is confirmed by the custom of the ancient Britons, among whom 
grooms, as a part of the wedding ceremony, gave their brides cakes. 

549 At the birth of these human things, three other deities of the gentes 
maiores sprang forth in the imaginations of the Greeks, with this order of 
ideas, corresponding to the order of the things themselves. First Vulcan, then 


Saturn (so called from sati, "sown fields," whence the age of Saturn among the 
Latins corresponds to the golden age of the Greeks), and thirdly Cybele or 
Berecynthia, the cultivated land. Cybele is depicted as seated on a lion (the 
enf crested earth which the heroes reduced to tillage, as explained above), and 
is called the great mother of the gods and also the mother of the giants (who 
were properly so called in the sense of sons of Earth, as noted above). Hence she 
is the mother of the gods (that is, of the giants, who in the time of the first 
cities arrogated to themselves the name of gods, as we have also noted before), 
and the pine is sacred to her (as a sign of the stability of the founders of peo- 
ples, who, remaining settled on the first lands, founded the cities, of which 
Cybele is the goddess). She was called Vesta, goddess of divine ceremonies 
among the Romans, for the lands ploughed at that time were the first altars of 
the world (as we shall see in the Poetic Geography). Here the goddess Vesta, 
armed with a fierce religion, watched over fire and spelt, which was the grain 
of the ancient Romans. Hence too among the Romans nuptials were celebrated 
aqua et igni, "with water and fire," and also with spelt (far), and were then 
called nuptlae conjarreatae. This ceremony was later confined to priests, for the 
first families had been all of priests (as has been found to be the case in the king- 
doms of the bonzes in the East Indies). And water, fire and spelt were the ele- 
ments used in the Roman divine ceremonies. On these first lands Vesta sacrificed 
to Jove the impious f practicers] of the infamous sharing [of women and things], 
who violated the first altars (which we have said above were the first fields of 
grain, as we shall explain later). These were the first hostiae, the first victims of 
the gentile religions. Plautus called them Satutni hostiae, "Saturn's victims," as 
we have observed above; and they were called victimae from victi, as being 
weak because alone (the Latin victus has preserved this meaning of weakness), 
and they were called hostes because such impious men were rightly held to be 
enemies of the whole human race. And among the Romans it remained the 
custom to cover with spelt the brow and the horns of sacrificial victims. From the 
name of Vesta the Romans called Vestal virgins those who guarded the eternal 
fire, which if extinguished by mishap had to be relighted from the sun, for from 
the sun, as we shall see later, Prometheus stole the first fire and brought it to 
the Greeks on earth, who therewith set fire to the forests and began to cultivate 
the land. On this account Vesta is the goddess of divine ceremonies among the 
Romans, for the first colere or cultivating in the world of the gentiles was the 
cultivation of the land, and the first cult was raising these altars, setting this first 
fire to them, and sacrificing upon them the impious men of whom we have just 

550 In this way the boundaries of the fields were fixed and maintained. 
This division, too generally set forth by Hermogenianus the jurisconsult, has 
been imagined as taking place by deliberate agreement of men, and carried out 
with justice and respected in good faith, at a time when there was as yet no 
armed public force and consequently no civil authority of law. But it cannot be 


understood save as taking place among men of extreme wildness, observing a 
frightful religion which had fixed and circumscribed them within certain lands, 
and whose bloody ceremonies had consecrated their first walls. For even the 
philologists say the walls were traced by the founders of the cities with the 
plough, the moldboard of which, by the origins of language above discovered, 
must have been first called urbs, whence the ancient urbum, "curved." Perhaps 
orbis is from the same origin, so that at first orbis terrac must have meant any 
fence made in this way, so low that Remus jumped over it to be killed by 
Romulus and thus, as Latin historians narrate, to consecrate with his blood the 
first walls of Rome. Such a fence must evidently have been a hedge (siepe) (and 
among the Greeks seps signifies "serpent" in its heroic meaning of "cultivated 
land"), from which origin must come muncre viam, "to build a road," which 
is done by strengthening the hedges around the fields. Hence walls are called 
moenia, as if for munia, and certainly munire kept the sense of "fortifying." 
The hedges must have been of those plants the Latins called sagmina, blood- 
wort or elder, whose use and name still survive. The name sagtnina was pre- 
served in the sense of the herbs with which the altars were adorned; it must have 
come from the blood (sanguis) of the slain, who, like Remus, had transgressed 
them. Hence the so-called sanctity of walls, and also of heralds, who, as we shall 
see later, crowned themselves with these herbs, as certainly the ancient Roman 
ambassadors did with those plucked on the Capitoline. And hence finally the 
sanctity of the laws of war and peace of which the heralds were bearers, whence 
that part of a law which imposes penalties on its transgressors is called its sanc- 
tion. And here begins what we are demonstrating in this work: that the natural 
law of nations was by divine providence ordained separately for each people, 
and only when they became acquainted did they recognize it as common to all. 
For if the Roman heralds consecrated with these herbs were inviolate among the 
other peoples of Latium, it could only have been because the latter, without 
knowing anything of Roman usage, observed the same custom. 

551 So the family fathers provided a subsistence for their heroic families 
through religion, and through religion it had to be maintained. Hence it was the 
perpetual custom of the nobles to be religious, as Julius Scaliger observes in his 
Poetica. It must then be a strong indication of the decline of a nation when the 
nobles scorn their native religion. 

552 Philologians and philosophers have commonly supposed that the 
families in the so-called state of nature included children only; whereas in fact 
they included famuli and that was the original reason for their being called 
families. On this defective economy a false politics has been erected, as we have 
noted above and shall show fully later on. Wherefore from this matter of the 
famuli, which pertains to economic theory, we shall proceed to discourse of 





553 Among the impious giants who had continued the infamous sharing 
of property and women, the quarrels produced by the sharing finally brought 
it about, at the end of a long period of time, that (to borrow the language of the 
jurists) Grotius's simpletons and Pufendorfs abandoned men had recourse to 
the altars of the strong to save themselves from Hobbes's violent men, even as 
beasts driven by intense cold will sometimes seek salvation in inhabited places. 
Thereupon the strong, with a fierceness born of their union in the society of 
families, slew the violent who had violated their lands, and took under their 
protection the miserable creatures who had fled from them. And above the hero- 
ism of nature which was theirs as having been born of Jove or engendered under 
his auspices, there now shone forth preeminently in them the heroism of virtue. 
In this heroism the Romans excelled all other peoples of the earth, practicing pre- 
cisely these two aspects ot it, sparing the submissive and vanquishing the proud: 
Par cere subtectis et debcllarc super bos. 

554 And here it is worth reflecting how men in the feral state, fierce and 
untamed as they were, came to pass from their bestial liberty into human society. 
For in order that the first of them should reach that first kind of society which 
is matrimony, they had need of the sharp stimulus of bestial lust, and to keep 
them in it the stern restraints of frightful religions were necessary, as we have 
shown above. Thus marriage emerged as the first kind of friendship in the 
world; whence Homer, to indicate that Jove and Juno lay together, says with 
heroic gravity that "they celebrated their friendship." The Greek word for friend- 
ship, philia, is from the same root as phdeo, "to love"; and from it is derived 
the Latin filius, "son." Phihos in Ionic Greek means "friend," and mutation to 
a letter of similar sound yielded the Greek phyle, "tribe." We have already seen 
above that stcmmata was the word for the genealogical threads called lineae 
by the jurisconsults. From tnis nature of human things there remained the 
eternal property that the true natural friendship is matrimony, in which are 
realized the three final goods: the honorable, the useful and the pleasant. Hus- 
band and wife by nature share the same lot in all the prosperities and adversities 
of life, just as by choice friends have all things in common (amicorum omnia 


sunt communia)) and Modestinus therefore defines matrimony as a life-long lot- 
sharing (omnis vitac consortium). 

555 The second comers came into this second society (which had that 
name by a certain excellence, as we shall shortly show) only for the ultimate 
necessities of life. And here again is a matter worthy of reflection. For the first 
comers to human society were driven thereto by religion and the natural instinct 
to propagate the human race (the former a pious motive, the latter in the strict 
sense a gentle one), and thus gave a beginning to noble and lordly friendship. 
The second comers, since they came out of a necessity of saving their lives, gave 
a beginning to society in the proper sense, with a view principally to utility, and 
consequently base and servile. These refugees were received by the heroes under 
the just law of protection, by which they preserved their natural lives under the 
obligation of serving the heroes as day laborers. So from the fame (jama) of the 
heroes (primarily acquired through the practice of the aforesaid two parts of 
the heroism of virtue) and from the worldly renown which is the Jtfeos or 
"glory" of the Greeks (called jama by the Latins and pheme too by the Greeks), 
the refugees were called famuli , and it was principally from these famuli that 
the families took their name. It is certainly from this fame that sacred history, 
speaking of the giants before the flood, calls them famous men. Vergil too 
similarly describes Fama as seated on a high tower (the high-lying lands of the 
heroes) with her head in the sky (whose vault rises from the mountain tops), 
having wings (as pertaining to the heroes, whence on the battlefield before 
Troy Fame flies amid the ranks of the Greek heroes and not amid the masses of 
their plebeians), and with a trumpet (which must be the trumpet of Clio, that 
is, heroic history) celebrating the names of the great (the founders of nations). 

556 In these families before the time of the cities, the famuli lived in a 
state of slavery. (They were the forerunners of the slaves who were captured in 
the wars which began after the founding of cities. These latter slaves were 
called vernae by the Latins; with them came the languages called vernaculac, as 
we have explained above.) To distinguish the sons of the heroes from those of 
the famuli, the former were called libcri, "free." But it was a distinction without 
a difference. For Tacitus tells us of the ancient Germans (and we may thence 
conjecture the same custom among all the first barbarous peoples) that the mas- 
ter is not distinguished from the slave by being brought up with greater delicacy 
(dominum etc scrvum nullis education!* dclicns dignoscas)\ and certainly among 
the ancient Romans the family fathers had a sovereign power of life and death 
over their children and a despotic dominion over the property they acquired, so 
that down to imperial times there was no difference between sons and slaves in 
respect of their property. But originally the word liberi meant also "noble," so 
that artes liberates are noble arts, and liberalis kept the meaning "well-born," 
and liberalitas that of "gentility." From the same ancient origin the noble houses 
of the Latins were called gcntes, for, as we shall see, the first gcntes were made 
up of nobles alone, and only nobles were free in the first cities. Furthermore, the 


famuli were called clientes, originally cluentes from the ancient verb cluere, "to 
shine in the light of arms" (whose splendor was called cluer), for they reflected 
the light of the arms borne by their respective heroes. The latter were called 
first incluti and later inclyti from the same root. If not thus resplendent they 
were not noticed, as if they had no place among men, as will be explained later. 

557 Thus began the clienteles and the first intimations of the fiefs of 
which we shall have much to say later. In ancient history we read of such 
clienteles and clients scattered through all nations, as is set forth in the Axioms 
[263]. But Thucydides relates that in Egypt, even in his time, the dynasties of 
Tanis were all divided among family fathers, the shepherd princes of such 
families; and Homer calls each hero of whom he sings a king, and describes 
them as shepherds of the peoples, who must have appeared before the shepherds 
of the flocks, as we shall show later. They are still found in great numbers in 
Arabia, as they once were in Egypt; and in the West Indies the greater part were 
found in this state of nature to be governed by such families, surrounded by 
slaves in such numbers as to cause Charles V, king of Spain, to consider impos- 
ing restrictive measures. It must have been with a family such as these that 
Abraham made war against the gentile kings; and his servants, who aided him, 
are called by a name much to our purpose which Hebrew scholars translate 
vernaculos, according well with the vernae discussed above. 

558 With the beginning of these things came the true origin of the 
famous Herculean knot by which clients were said to be ncxi or tied to the 
lands they had to cultivate for the nobles. Later this became a figurative knot, 
as we shall see, in the Law of the Twelve Tables, which gave form to the civil 
mancipation by which all the actus legitimt of the Romans were solemnized. 
Now at this point, because one cannot conceive an association more restricted 
from the side of those having abundance of goods nor more necessary for those 
who need them, the first socii in the world must have had their beginning. As 
we have noted in the Axioms [258], these were the socit of the heroes, received 
for life, as they had placed their lives in the hands of the heroes. This explains 
how Ulysses is on the point of cutting off the head of Antinous [i.e Eurylochus], 
the chief of his socii, just for a word which, though well meant, does not please 
him; and the pious Aeneas kills his soaus Misenus when it is needful for a 
sacrifice. This episode was preserved in a vulgar tradition, but Vergil, since in 
the mild days of the Roman people it was too harsh a thing to tell of Aeneas, 
whom the poet himself celebrates for his piety, discreetly pretends that Misenus 
was killed by Triton for presuming to rival him on the trumpet. At the same 
time he gives clear hints for the right understanding of the story by placing 
the death of Misenus among the solemnities prescribed to Aeneas by the Sybil. 
For one of them was that he must bury Misenus before he could make his descent 
to the lower world; and this is an open acknowledgment that the Sybil had pre- 
dicted his death. 

559 Thus the socti shared only the labors of the heroes, not their winnings, 


and still less their glory. With this last only the heroes shone, and they were 
therefore called tyeitoi or "illustrious" by the Greeks and inclyti by the Latins. 
(There was a similar relationship between the Romans and the provinces they 
called associate.) Aesop complains of this state of affairs in his fable of the 
lion's partnership, as we have said above [425]. Among the ancient Germans, 
certainly, as Tacitus tells us (thereby justifying a like conjecture for all other 
barbarous peoples), the principal oath of these famuli or clients or vassals was to 
guard and defend each his own prince and to assign to his prince's glory his 
own deeds of valor (suum prindpcm defenders ct tucri, sua quoquc jortia jacta 
gloriae eius adsignare, praecipuum iuramentum esf) ; which is one of the most 
impressive characteristics of our own feudalism. Thus and not otherwise must 
it have come about that under the person or head (which, as we shall later see, 
meant the same as "mask") and under the name (or as we would now say "de- 
vice") of a Roman paterfamilias were counted, in law, all his children and all 
his slaves. Hence the Romans called dypea or shields the half-busts represent- 
ing the images of their ancestors, set in the hollow niches of their courtyard 
walls. And in modern architecture, quite in line with what we have been say- 
ing about the origins of medals, these shields are called medallions. And thus 
in the heroic times of the Greeks Homer could say with perfect truth that Ajax 
was "the tower of the Greeks," as alone he battles with whole battalions of 
Trojans; as in the heroic times of the Romans Horatius alone on the bridge 
stands off an army of Etruscans; for Ajax and Horatius are alone with their 
vassals. Just so in the history of the returned barbarism forty Norman heroes 
returning from the Holy Land scatter an army of Saracens besieging Salerno. 
Whence it must be said that these first ancient examples of protection extended 
by the heroes over those who had taken refuge on their lands marked the begin- 
ning of fiefs in the world. The first were personal rustic fiefs, and the vassals must 
have been the first vades or "implements," obliged to follow their heroes in 
person wherever they led them to till their fields (whence the term vades was 
later applied to defendants obliged to appear with their attorneys in court). And 
just as the vassal was called vas in Latin and has in Greek, he continued to be 
called was and wassus by the barbarian writers on feudal law. Later the real 
rustic fiefs must have developed, under which the vassals must have been the 
first praedes or mancipes, under real-estate bond; and mancipes remained the 
proper term for those under bond to the treasury, of whom we shall have more 
to say later. 

560 Here likewise must have been the origin of the first heroic colonies 
which we call inland to differentiate them from the maritime colonies which 
came later. The latter we shall see were simply bands of refugees who took to the 
sea and found safety in other lands (as noted in the Axioms [300]). For the 
term colony properly signifies merely a crowd of workers who till the soil (as 
they still do) for their daily sustenance. The histories of these two kinds of 
colonies are contained in two fables, (i) For the inland colonies, the famous 


Gallic Hercules who, with the chains of poetic gold (that is, grain) issuing from 
his mouth, chains by the ears great multitudes of men and leads them after him 
whither he will. This has hitherto been taken as a symbol of eloquence, but the 
fable was born at a time when the heroes had as yet no articulate speech, as 
has been fully shown above. (2) For the maritime colonies, the fable of the 
net with which heroic Vulcan drags plebeian Venus and Mars from the sea (a 
distinction of which a general explanation will be given later), so that the Sun 
discovers them completely naked (that is, not clothed in the civil light with 
which the heroes shone, as we have just stated), and the gods (the nobles of 
the heroic cities, as explained above) laugh them to scorn (as the patricians 
ridiculed the poor plebs of ancient Rome). 

561 And lastly the asylums had here their first origin. Thus Cadmus 
founds Thebes, the most ancient city of Greece, as an asylum. Theseus founds 
Athens on the altar of the unhappy, for such was the appropriate epithet for the 
impious vagabonds who were without all the divine and human blessings that 
human society had afforded the pious. Romulus founds Rome by opening an 
asylum in the grove, in the way in which the ancient cities of Latium had arisen; 
for Livy defines it generally as an ancient counsel of founders of cities; where- 
fore he is wrong, as we have seen above, in attributing to Romulus the saying 
that he and his comrades were sons of that land. Yet Livy's phrase is to our pur- 
pose in that it shows that the asylums were the origins of the cities, whose eternal 
property it is that men live secure from violence in them. In this way, from the 
multitude of impious vagabonds who everywhere repaired to the lands of the 
pious and strong and found safety there, came Jove's gracious title, the hospitable. 
For these asylums were the first hospices in the world, and those who were 
there received were the first guests or strangers of the first cities, as we shall 
later see. And among the many labors of Hercules poetic Greek history pre- 
served these two: how he went about the world slaying monsters, men in aspect 
but beasts in their habits, and how he cleansed the filthy Augean stables. 

562 In this connection gentile poetic imagination created two other major 
divinities, Mars and Venus. The former was a [poetic] character of the heroes 
as first and properly fighting for their altars and hearths, fro arts et facts. This 
sort of fighting was always heroic, for it was fighting for their own religion, 
upon which mankind falls back when all natural help is despaired of. Whence 
the wars of religion are most sanguinary. Libertines, too, as they grow older, 
turn to religion, for they feel nature failing them. It was for these reasons that 
we took religion for the first principle of our Science. Now Mars fought on truly 
real fields and behind truly real shields, which, from cluer, were called by the 
Romans first clupei and later clypei; just as from the time of the returned bar- 
barism pastures and enclosed woods have been called defenses. And these shields 
were charged with true arms, which at first, before there were arms of iron, were 
simply poles with their ends burnt and then tapered to a point and given sharp 
edges to make them suitable for inflicting wounds. Such were the simple spears, 


without iron tips, which were given as military prizes to the Roman soldiers 
for heroic conduct in war. Hence among the Greeks the spear is borne by 
Minerva, Bellona and Pallas [Athena]. And among the Latins, from quirts, 
"spear," Juno is called Quirina and Mars Quirinus; and Romulus, because in 
life he excelled with the spear, was called Quirinus after his death. Similarly the 
Roman people, who were armed with javelins (as the Spartans, the heroic people 
of Greece, were armed with spears), were called Quirites in solemn assembly. But 
the barbarian nations, Roman history tells us, used to fight with the primitive 
spears we are speaking of, and it describes them for us as praeustas sudes, ''burnt- 
tip spears," similar to those the American Indians were found to wield. And in 
our own times the nobles are armed with spears in the tournaments, as they 
formerly used them in war. The invention of this sort of weapon proceeded from 
a just idea of strength, as it were elongating the arm and thus using the body to 
ward off harm from the body: whereas the arms that are held close to the body 
belong rather to beasts. 

563 We learned above that the lower ends of the fields where the dead 
were buried were the first shields in the world, whence m the science of heraldry 
the shield is the ground or escutcheon of the arms. The colors of the fields were 
true colors. The black came from the burnt fields to which Hercules had set 
fire. The green from the fields of grain in leaf. And it was by an error that the 
gold was taken as a metal, for it was the yellowing of the standing grain as it 
ripened that made the third color of the earth, as we have said before. Thus the 
Romans, among their heroic military prizes, charged with grain the shields of 
soldiers who had distinguished themselves in battle, and military glory was 
called adorea from ador, the parched grain which was their primitive food. The 
ancient Latins called it adur, from uro, "to burn," so that perhaps the first adora- 
tion in religious times was the burning of grain. Blue was the color of the sky 
with which these clearings were covered, which is why bleu is French for "blue," 
"sky," and "God," as we have said above. Red was from the blood of the im- 
pious thieves slain by the heroes when found in their fields. The noble arms 
which have come down to us from the returned barbarism are observed to be 
charged with many lions, black, green, gold, blue, and finally red. These, ac- 
cording to what we have seen above of the fields of grain that later became fields 
of arms, must be the cultivated lands, viewed under the aspect, set forth above, 
of the lion overcome by Hercules, with their above enumerated colors. Many are 
charged with vairs, which must be the furrows whence sprang the armed men 
of Cadmus, sprouting from the dragon's teeth he had sown after slaying the 
monster. Many are charged with pales, which must be the spears with which the 
first heroes waged war. And finally many are charged with rakes, which are 
clearly agricultural implements. From all this we must conclude that agriculture 
was the first foundation of nobility not only in the first barbarian times, as we 
ascertain from the Romans, but also in the second. 

564 The shields of the ancients were covered with leather, as we learn 


from the poets that the old heroes dressed in leather, that is, in the hides of the 
beasts they hunted and killed. On this there is a fine passage in Pausanias where 
he says that leather clothing was invented by Pelasgus (an ancient hero of Greece 
after whom the people of that nation were first called Pelasgians, and whom 
Apollodorus in his De origine deorum calls autochthonous or son of earth, or, 
in a word, a giant). And there is a striking correspondence between the first and 
second barbarian times, for Dante, speaking of the grand old personages of the 
second, says they were clothed in leather and bone, and Boccaccio too relates 
that they went about wrapped in leather. This must have been the reason for 
covering the family arms with leather, and the curling into scrolls of the skin 
of head and feet is an appropriate finishing touch. The shields were round be- 
cause the cleared and cultivated lands were the first orbes tcrrarum, as above 
noted; and this characteristic survived among the Romans, whose clypeus was 
round, in distinction from their scutum, which had corners. Every clearing was 
called a lucus in the sense of an eye, as even today we call eyes the openings 
through which light enters houses. The true heroic phrase that "every giant had 
his lucus" [clearing or eyej was altered and corrupted when its meaning was 
lost, and had already been falsified when it reached Homer, for it was then taken 
to mean that every giant had one eye in the middle of his forehead. With these 
one-eyed giants came Vulcan to work in the first forges that is, the forests to 
which Vulcan had set fire and where he had fashioned the first arms, which 
as we have seen were the spears with burnt tips and, by an extension of the 
idea of arms, to forge bolts for Jove. For Vulcan had set fire to the forests in 
order to observe in the open sky the direction from which Jove sent his bolts. 

565 The other divinity born among these most ancient human things was 
Venus, a [poetic] character of civil beauty, whence honestas had the meanings 
of nobility, beauty and virtue. For this is the order in which these three ideas 
must have been born. The first to be understood was the civil beauty which ap- 
pertained to the heroes. Then the natural beauty which is apprehended by the 
human senses, but only by those of men of perception and comprehension, who 
know how to discern the parts and grasp their harmony in the body as a whole, 
in which beauty essentially consists. This is why peasants and men of the squalid 
plebs understand little or nothing of beauty (which shows the error of the 
philologians who say that in these simple and stupid times of which we are 
speaking kings were chosen for their handsome and well-proportioned bodies; 
for this tradition is to be understood as referring to civil beauty, which was the 
nobility of the heroes, as we shall shortly state). And lastly the beauty of virtue, 
which is called honestas and is understood only by philosophers. Hence it must 
have been the civil beauty that was possessed by Apollo, Bacchus, Ganymede, 
Bellerophon, Theseus and other heroes, and perhaps on their account Venus was 
imagined as male [androgynous]. 

566 The idea of civil beauty must have been engendered in the minds 
of the theological poets when they saw that the impious creatures who had 


taken refuge on their lands were men in aspect but brute beasts in their habits. 
It was this civil beauty and no other that was cherished by the Spartans, the 
heroes of Greece, who cast down from Mt. Taygetus the ugly and deformed off- 
spring, that is, those borne by noble women but without benefit of solemn 
nuptials. Such too must have been the monsters condemned by the Law of the 
Twelve Tables to be thrown into the Tiber. For it is not at all likely that the 
decemvirs, in that parsimony of laws proper to the first commonwealths, would 
have given any thought to natural monsters, because of whose extreme rarity 
anything rare in nature is called monstrous, when even in the abundance of 
laws with which we are now afflicted, legislators leave to the discretion of judges 
those cases that seldom present themselves. Such then must have been the 
monsters which were first and properly called civil. (It is one of these that 
Pamphilus had in mind when, under the false suspicion that the maiden 
Philumena was pregnant, he says: Aliquid monstri alunt, "Something monstrous 
is a-breeding.") And so they continued to be called in the Roman laws, 
which must have spoken with all propriety, as Antoine Favre observes in his 
lurisprudentiac paptniancac scientia, and as we have already remarked above in 
another connection. 

567 This must be what Livy has in mind when, with as much good 
faith as ignorance of the Roman antiquities of which he writes, he says that 
if the nobles shared connubtum with the plebeians the resulting offspring 
would be secum ipsa discors, which is as much as to say a monster of mixed and 
twofold nature, the one heroic, of the nobles, the other feral, of the plebeians who 
"practiced marriages like those of wild animals" (agitabant connubia more 
jerarum). This phrase {secum ipsa discors} Livy took from some ancient writer 
of annals and used it ignorantly, for he quotes it as if it meant "if the nobles 
intermarried with the plebeians." But the plebeians in their miserable state of 
quasi slavery could not ask any such thing of the nobles. What they demanded 
was the right of contracting solemn nuptials (for such is the meaning of con- 
nubium), which right was at that time confined to the nobles. But among 
animals no species has intercourse with another. We must therefore say that 
[secum ipsa discors] was a phrase of insult applied by the nobles to the plebeians 
in that heroic contest. For inasmuch as the latter did not possess the public 
auspices, whose solemnities were required to make marriages legitimate, none 
of them had an ascertained father (by the well-known definition in Roman law 
that nuptiae demonstrant patrem, "the marriage ceremony identifies the father"), 
and with reference to this uncertainty the plebeians were said by the nobles to 
have intercourse with their mothers and daughters as beasts do. 

568 To the plebeian Venus, however, were attributed the doves, not to 
signify passionate love but because they are, as Horace describes them, degencres, 
base birds in comparison with eagles, which Horace calls feroces; and thus to 
signify that the plebeians had private or minor auspices as contrasted with those 
pf the eagles and thunderbolts possessed by the nobles and called by Varro and 


Messala major or public auspices. On the latter depended all the heroic rights of 
the nobles, as Roman history plainly confirms. To the heroic Venus or Venus 
pronuba, on the other hand, were attributed the swans which appertain also to 
Apollo (who, as we saw above, was the god of the nobility), and under the 
auspices of one of which Leda conceives the eggs by Jove, as set forth above. 

569 The plebeian Venus was depicted as naked, whereas Venus pronuba 
wore the girdle, as stated above. And here we may see how ideas concerning these 
poetic antiquities have been distorted. For that [nakedness] was later taken as 
an incentive to lust which in truth had been invented to signify the natural 
modesty or the punctuality of good faith with which natural obligations were 
fulfilled among the plebeians. For as we shall see shortly in the Poetic Politics 
the plebeians had no part of citizenship in the heroic cities, and thus did not con- 
tract obligations sanctioned by any bond of civil law to make their fulfilment 
necessary. Hence to Venus were attributed the Graces, likewise nude; and among 
the Latins caussa and gratia meant the same thing, so that the Graces must have 
signified to the poets the pacta nuda or simple agreements which involve only 
natural obligation. And thus those pacts which the Roman jurisconsults called 
pacta stipulata were later described by the medieval interpreters as "vested." 
For, understanding by nude pacts those not stipulated, they did not derive 
stipulatio from stipes (for such an origin would have yielded sti patio), in the 
forced sense of "that which sustains the pacts," but from stlpula as used by the 
peasants of Latium for the blade which "clothes the grain." On the other hand, 
the "vested pacts" of the early writers on feudal law were so called from the same 
origin from which came the "investiture" of the fiefs, from which certainly 
comes exjestucare, "to divest of [legal] standing." For the reasons set forth, 
therefore, gratia and caussa were understood by the poetic Latins as having 
the same meaning with respect to the contracts observed by the plebeians of the 
heroic cities. Similarly, with the later introduction of contracts de iure naturali 
gentium, "by the natural law of nations" (to which Ulpian adds humanarum f 
"human" [nations]), caussa and negocium signified the same thing, for in 
such kinds of contracts the transactions themselves are almost always caussae 
or cavissae or cautelae which serve as stipulations to give security to the pacts. 



570 The heroic peoples were concerned only with the necessities of life. 
The only fruits they gathered were natural fruits, as they did not yet understand 


the use of money. They were so to speak all body. Hence the most ancient law 
of the heroic nations could certainly take no cognizance of the contracts which 
nowadays are said to be sealed by simple consent. They were extremely crude 
people and therefore suspicious, for crudeness is born of ignorance and it is a 
property of human nature that he who does not know is ever doubtful. For all 
these reasons they did not recognize good faith, and they made sure of all ob- 
ligations by a real or fictitious physical transfer. Moreover, the transfer was made 
certain by solemn stipulations in the course of the transaction. Hence the cele- 
brated article in the Law of the Twelve Tables: Si quis nexum jaciet mancipium- 
que, uti lingua nuncupassit, ita ius esto, "if anyone executes a bond or convey- 
ance, as he has declared with his tongue, so let it be binding." And from this 
nature of human civil things the following truths emerge. 


571 It is [rightly] said that the most ancient buying and selling was bar- 
ter. In the case of real estate, however, the barter must have been of the kind 
which in the returned barbarism was called libcllus or feudal leasehold. Its 
utility was apparent from the fact that one man had more than enough fields 
yielding an abundance of fruits which another man lacked, and vice versa. 


572 The letting of houses could not be practiced as long as cities were 
quite small and dwellings simple. Landlords must therefore have let out their 
lands for others to build on; and thus the only rental was ground rent. 


573 The letting of land must have been by emphyteusis, which the 
Latins called clientela; whence the grammarians, by an inspired guess, said the 
clientes had been so called as being colentes, "tillers." 


574 This must be the reason why, for the returned barbarism, the only 
contracts we find in the old archives are leases for dwellings or farms, in per- 
petuity or for limited periods of time. 


575 This is perhaps the reason why emphyteusis is a contract de iure 
civili, that is, by our principles, de iure heroico romanorum. To this Ulpian op- 
poses the ius naturals gentium hutnanarutn, the natural law of human nations 
as distinguished from that of the barbarous nations that had preceded them, not 
from that of the barbarous nations outside the Roman empire in his own day, 
for their law was 0f no importance to Roman jurisconsults, 



576 Partnerships were unknown, by that cyclopean custom whereby each 
family father cared only for his own affairs and did not trouble himself with 
those of others, as, above, Homer gave us to understand by what he has Poly- 
phemus tell Ulysses. 


577 For the same reason mandates or contracts of agency were unknown. 
The rule of ancient civil law was: Per extraneam personam acquiri nemini, "no 
one may acquire by a person not under his power.'* 


578 But when the heroic law was succeeded by what Ulpian defines as 
that of the human nations, there was a revolutionary change. The contract of 
purchase and sale, which in ancient times did rfot guarantee recovery unless 
double recovery was stipulated in the contract, now became the queen of those 
contracts called bonae fidei t "of good faith," and the right of recovery obtained 
naturally even without stipulation. 



579 Returning now to the three f poetic] characters, Vulcan, Mars and 
Venus, it must be noted here (and this must be considered an important canon 
of our mythology) that there were three divine characters signifying the heroes, 
distinguished from three others signifying the plebeians. Vulcan splits Jove's 
head with a hatchet to give birth to Minerva, attempts to interfere in a quarrel 
between Jove and Juno, is kicked out of heaven by Jove, and is left lame. Mars, 
in a stern reproof reported by Homer, is called by Jove "the vilest of all the 
gods," and Minerva in the battle of the gods related by the same poet hurls a 
stone at him and wounds him. (This Vulcan and this Mars must be the plebeians 
who served the heroes in war.) And Venus (signifying the natural wives of the 
plebeians) along with the plebeian Mars is trapped in the net of the heroic Vul- 
can; and, being discovered naked by the Sun, they are made the butt of the 
other gods. Hence Venus was erroneously believed to be the wife of Vulcan, but 
we saw above that there was no marriage in heaven save that between Jove and 
Juno, and that was sterile. And it was not said that Mars had committed adultery 


with Venus but that she was his concubine, because among the plebeians there 
were only natural marriages, as we shall show later, and these were called by 
the Latins concubinages. 

580 As we have explained these three characters here, so we shall explain 
others in their proper places. Among them we shall find the plebeian Tantalus 
who cannot reach the apples (which rise beyond his grasp) nor the water 
(which sinks beneath the reach of his lips); the plebeian Midas dying of hun- 
ger because all he touches turns to gold; and the plebeian Linus who contends in 
song with Apollo and is vanquished and slain by the god. 

581 Such double fables or characters must have been necessary in the 
heroic state in which the plebeians, having no names of their own, bore those 
of their heroes, as we have said above. To say nothing of the extreme poverty 
of speech that must have obtained in the first times, when even in the abundance 
of our present languages the same word often signifies different and sometimes 
contrary things. 






582 In this fashion, then, the families were founded with the jamuli 
taken by the heroes under their faith, power, or protection. And these jamuh 
were the first socii in the world, as we have seen above. Their lives were in the 
hands of their lords, and consequently their acquisitions likewise. The heroes, 
with their cyclopean paternal authority, had the right of life and death over 
their own children, and, in consequence of this right over their persons, had 
also a despotic right over ail their acquisitions. This was Aristotle's meaning 
when he defined the children of a family as "animate instruments of their 
fathers." And the Law of the Twelve Tables, even into the period of the most 
unbounded popular liberty, preserved to the Roman family fathers both these 
monarchical rights of power over the persons and dominion over the acquisi- 
tions [of their children]. Indeed, until imperial times, sons, like slaves, had 
only one kind of peculium or private property, namely peculium profectiaum 
[that acquired by their father's consent]. In the earliest times the fathers must 
have had the power of really selling their children as many as three times; for 
later, with the progressive softening of human times, they made three pretended 
sales when they wished to free their children from their paternal power. The 
Gauls and the Celts, however, retained an equal power over slaves and children; 
and the custom of fathers really selling their children was found in the West 
Indies, and in Europe they are sold up to four times by the Muscovites and Tar- 
tars. So true is it, forsooth, that other barbarous nations do not have paternal 
authority talem qualem habent cives romani, such as Roman citizens have [Inst. 
1.9.2]! This evident falsehood springs from the common vulgar error of which 
the scholars have been guilty in interpreting this statement; for it was made by 


the jurisconsults with reference to the nations conquered by the Roman people. 
For such nations, as we shall later show at greater length, having lost all their 
civil rights by the law of war, had left to them only natural paternal powers and, 
consequently, natural blood ties called those of cognation; and similarly only 
the natural property rights called bonitary; and hence on both these accounts 
only the natural obligations said to be de iurc naturali gentium, which Ulpian 
further specified as humanarum. But the civil rights these subject nations had 
lost must all have been possessed by the peoples outside the Roman empire, 
precisely as the Romans themselves had them. 

583 To return to our argument: when the sons of the families were 
freed by their fathers' death from this private monarchical rule, each son took 
it up entire for himself, so that every Roman citizen when free of paternal power 
is called a paterfamilias in Roman law. The famuli on the other hand went on 
living in that servile state. After a long period of time they must naturally have 
chafed under it, by the axiom set forth above [292] that "subject man naturally 
aspires to free himself from servitude." Such must have been the Tantalus 
above called plebeian, striving in vain to reach the fruit (the golden apples of 
the grain raised on the lands of the heroes, as above explained), and unable to 
slake his burning thirst with so much as a mouthful of the water which rises 
to his lips only to sink away again. Such also were Ixion, forever turning the 
wheel, and Sisyphus pushing the rock uphill. (Like the dragon's teeth sown by 
Cadmus, this rock was the hard earth, and its rolling back when it reached the 
top was preserved in the Latin phrases vertere terram for cultivating it and 
saxum volvere for painfully performing a long and arduous task.) For all these 
reasons the famuli must have revolted against the heroes. And this is that "neces- 
sity" which we conjectured generally in the Axioms [261] to have been im- 
posed by the famuli upon the heroic fathers in the state of the families, as a 
result of which the commonwealths were born. 

584 For at this point, under pressure of the emergency, the heroes must 
naturally have been moved to unite themselves in orders so as to resist the multi- 
tudes of rebellious famuli. And they must have chosen as their head a father 
fiercer than the rest and with greater presence of spirit. Such men were called 
reges, "kings," from regere, which properly means "to sustain" or "direct." In 
this fashion, to use the well-known phrase of the jurisconsult Pomponius, "things 
themselves dictating it, kingdoms were founded" (rebus ipsis dictantibus, regna 
condita)\ a phrase in keeping with the doctrine of Roman law which declares 
that the natural law of nations was established by divine providence (ius naturale 
gentium divina providentia constituturn). Such was the generation of the heroic 
kingdoms. And since the fathers were sovereign kings of their families, the 
equality of their state and the fierce nature of the Cyclopes being such that no one 
of them naturally would yield to another, there sprang up of themselves the 
reigning senates, made up of so many family kings. These, without any human 
discernment or counsel, were found to have united their private interests in a 


common interest called patria, which, the word res being understood, means 
"the interest of the fathers." The nobles were accordingly called patricians, and 
the nobles must have been the only citizens of the first patriae or fatherlands. 
In this sense we may regard as truthful the tradition that has come down to us 
which says that in the earliest times kings were chosen by nature. On this point 
there are two golden passages in Tacitus's Gcrmania [ch. 7], which give us 
ground for conjecturing the same custom for all the other first barbarous peo- 
ples. The first is that "their squadrons or battalions, instead of being formed 
by chance or by a fortuitous gathering, are composed of families and clans." 
And the second is that "their chiefs do more by example than by authority; if 
they are energetic, if they are conspicuous, if they fight in the front, they lead 
because they are admired.'* 

585 Evidence that the first kings on earth were of this nature is afforded 
by the fact that the heroic poets imagined Jove in heaven to have just such king- 
ship over men and gods, as is shown by that golden passage in Homer where 
Jove explains to Thetis that he can do nothing contrary to what the gods have 
once determined in their great celestial council. Here speaks a true aristocratic 
king. On this episode the Stoics later erected their dogma of a Jove subject to fate, 
but in fact Jove and the other gods held council concerning the affairs of men and 
freely determined them. And the passage we have cited explains two others 
in Homer which political theorists have erroneously interpreted as Homeric 
references to monarchy. In one of them Agamemnon reproves the stubborn 
Achilles. In the other Ulysses persuades the Greeks, mutinous and desirous of 
returning home, to continue the siege of Troy. In both passages it is said that 
"one alone is king." But both passages refer to warfare, in which there is but 
one commander-in-chief, by the maxim quoted by Tacitus [Annals I, 6] "the 
condition of bearing rule is that an account cannot be balanced unless it is ren- 
dered to one person" (earn cssc imperandi conditionem, ut non aliter ratio 
constet quam si urn reddatur). Moreover, Homer himself, as often as he men- 
tions the heroes by name in his two poems, adds the fixed epithet "king." In 
striking harmony with this is a golden passage in Genesis in which Moses, 
enumerating the descendants of Esau, calls them all kings, or rather, as the Vul- 
gate has it, duces, "captains." Likewise the ambassadors of Pyrrhus report having 
seen in Rome a senate of so many kings. And in fact one cannot conceive in 
civil nature any reason why the fathers, in such a change of forms of government, 
should have altered anything of what they had had in the state of nature, save 
to subject their sovereign family powers to these reigning orders of theirs. For 
the nature of the strong, as we have set forth above in the Axioms [261], is to 
surrender as little as possible of what they have acquired by valor, and only so 
much as is necessary to preserve their acquisitions. Hence we read so often in 
Roman history of that heroic disdain of the strong wl\ich will not suffer an 
ignominious surrender of what has been won by valor (virtute parta per 
flagitium amittere) . And among all human possibilities, once we have seen that 


civil governments were not born cither of fraud or of the violence of a single 
man (a$ we have already shown and shall show more fully later), one cannot 
imagine any way but the one we have described by which civil power could 
emerge from family authority, or the eminent domain of civil states from the 
paternal natural domains (which, as we have indicated above, were ex iurc 
Optimo in the sense of being free of every private or public encumbrance). 

586 This development which we have established by reason is strikingly 
confirmed by the origins of the words relating to it. For on this dominium 
optimum or unencumbered domain of the fathers (called di^aion ariston by the 
Greeks) were erected the commonwealths which (as noted above) were called 
aristocratic by the Greeks, and by the Romans commonwealths of the optimates, 
so called from Ops, goddess of power. Perhaps for this reason Ops was called 
Jove's wife (from whom he must have been called optimus, for he is aristos to 
the Greeks and hence optimus to the Latins), the wife, that is, of the reigning 
order of those heroes who, as noted above, had arrogated to themselves the name 
of gods. (For Juno by the law of the auspices was the wife of Jove understood 
as the thundering sky.) The mother of these gods, as said above, was Cybele, 
also called mother of the giants properly so called in the sense of nobles, and 
she was later taken, as we shall see in the Poetic Cosmography, for the queen of 
cities. From Ops, then, came the term optimates, for all such commonwealths 
are ordained to preserve the power of the nobles, and to preserve it they retain 
as eternal properties two principal custodies, one of the orders, the other of the 
frontiers. Under the custody of the orders came first the custody of the families, 
by which the Romans down to the 3O9th year of the city excluded the plebs 
from connubium. Then the custody of the magistracies, by which the patricians 
so strongly contested the claim of the plebs to the consulship. Then the custody 
of the priesthoods, and finally, by its means, the custody of the laws, which all 
the first nations regarded as sacred. Whence down to the Law of the Twelve 
Tables the nobles governed Rome by custom, as we were assured by Dionysius 
of Halicarnassus in the Axioms [284], and for a century afterwards the inter- 
pretation of that Law was kept within the college of pontiffs, according to the 
jurisconsult Pomponius, because until then that college was open only to nobles. 
The other principal custody is that of the frontiers, in which connection the Ro- 
mans, until their destruction of Corinth, had observed an incomparable justice 
in war in order not to militarize the plebeians, and an extreme clemency in vic- 
tory in order not to enrich them. On this we have set forth two axioms above 

587 This great and important tract of poetic history is all contained in 
the fable of Saturn seeking to devour the infant Jove, and the priests of Cybele 
concealing him and by the clash of their arms preventing his infant cries from 
being heard. Here Saturn must be a character of the famuli, who as day laborers 
till the fields of their masters, the heroic fathers, and with ardent longing seek 
fields from the fathers on which they may find sustenance for themselves. And 


this Saturn is the father of Jove because from this Saturn, as its occasion, was 
born the civil government of the fathers which, as we said before, was set forth 
in the character of that Jove whose wife was Ops. For Jove taken as the god of 
the auspices, of which the most solemn were the thunderbolt and the eagle the 
Jove whose wife was Juno is the father of the gods, that is, of the heroes. For 
they believed themselves sons of Jove, as having been engendered under his aus- 
pices in solemn nuptials, of which Juno is the goddess, and so they took the name 
of gods, whose mother is Earth, that is, Ops, the wife of this Jove, as has all been 
said above. And this same Jove was called king of men, that is of the famuli in 
the state of the families and of the plebeians in that of the heroic cities. These 
two divine titles [father and king], through ignorance of this poetic history, 
have been confused, as if Jove were also the father of men. But men [famuli and 
plebeians] down into the days of the ancient Roman republic could not name 
their fathers (non poterant nomine ciere patrcm), as Livy says, because they 
were born of natural marriages and not of solemn nuptials; whence jurisprudence 
retained the maxim: Nuptiae demonstrant patrem, "The marriage ceremony 
identifies the father." 

588 The fable goes on to relate that the priests of Cybele or Ops (for the 
first kingdoms were everywhere priestly, as we have said above and shall show 
more fully later) conceal Jove. (From this concealment Latin philologians guess 
the name Latium must have come, and the Latin language preserved the history 
in its phrase condcrc regna, as we said before, for the fathers formed a closed 
order against the mutinous famuli, and the secrecy of this order was the source 
of what political theorists called arcana imperii.) And by the clash of their arms 
they prevent Saturn from hearing the wailing of Jove (newly born to the union 
of that order), and thus they save him. In this way the same thing is distinctly 
narrated that Plato stated so obscurely, that "the commonwealths were born on 
the basis of arms." To this may be added what Aristotle told us above in the 
Axioms [271], that in the heroic commonwealths the nobles swore eternal en- 
mity against the plebs. And there remained from all this the eternal property 
expressed in the saying that servants are the paid enemies of their masters. The 
Greeks preserve this history for us in the etymology of polemos, "war," from 
polls, "city." 

589 In this connection the Greek nations imagined the tenth divinity 
of the gcntes maiorcs, namely Minerva. And her birth was fancied in this wild 
and uncouth fashion: Vulcan, it was said, split with an axe the forehead of Jove, 
whence sprang Minerva. By this they meant to signify that the multitude of 
famuli practicing servile arts (which, as we have said, came under the poetic 
genus of the plebeian Vulcan) broke (in the sense of weakening or diminishing) 
the rule of Jove. (The Latins used for this the expression minucre caput, "to 
split the head," because, not being able to express rule as an abstraction, they 
used the concrete word for "head.") For Jove's rule in the state of the families 
had been monarchic, and they changed it to aristocratic in the state of the cities, 


Hence it is not an unlikely conjecture that Minerva's name was derived from 
minuerc, nor that from this most ancient poetic antiquity came the phrase in 
Roman law, capitis dcminutio, in the sense of change of form of government, as 
Minerva changed the state of the families into that of the cities. 

590 To this fable the philosophers later attached the most sublime of 
their metaphysical meditations: that the eternal idea in God is generated by God 
himself, while created ideas are produced in us by God. But the theological poets 
contemplated Minerva under the idea of civil order, whence order was the Latin 
term par excellence for the senate (which perhaps led the philosophers to consider 
it an eternal idea of God, who is naught else than eternal order); and thence 
there remained the eternal property that the order of the best is the wisdom of 
cities. However Minerva in Homer is always distinguished by the fixed epithets 
warlike and predatory, and only twice do we recall having found her called 
counselor. And the owl and the olive were sacred to her not because she spends 
the night in meditation and reads and writes by the light of the lamp, but rather 
to signify the dark night of the hiding places in which, as we have said above, 
humanity had its beginnings, and perhaps more properly to signify that the 
heroic senates that composed the cities conceived their laws in secret. Certainly 
it remained the custom of the Areopagites to give their votes under cover of 
darkness in the senate of Athens, the city of Minerva, whom the Greeks called 
Athena. From this heroic custom came the Latin phrase condere leges, so that 
legum conditores properly signified the senates that commanded the laws, and 
If gum latores those who carried the laws from the senates to the plebs of the 
various peoples, as we have noted above in the case of Horatius. How far the 
theological poets were from considering Minerva the goddess of wisdom appears 
from the statues and medals in which she is always shown as armed, and from 
the fact that the same goddess was Minerva in the curia, Pallas in the plebeian 
assemblies (for example in Homer it is Pallas who leads Telemachus, about to 
depart in search of his father Ulysses, into the assembly of the plebs, whom he 
calls the "other people"), and lastly Bellona in warfare. 

591 It must be said that the erroneous belief that Minerva was under- 
stood as wisdom by the theological poets is of a piece with the other error that 
the curia was so called from curanda respublica at a time when the nations were 
confused and stupid. The word must rather have been derived by the most 
ancient Greeks from chcir, "hand," in the form \yria, whence curia in Latin. 
We may infer as much from one of the two great fragments of antiquity 
(entered in the Chronological Table and mentioned in the Notes upon it [77]) 
which, to our good fortune, Denis Petau found embedded in Greek history be- 
fore the heroic age of Greece and consequently in what the Egyptians called the 
age of the gods, which we are here investigating. 

592 One of these fragments relates that the Hcraclids or descendants 
of Hercules had been scattered through the whole of Greece, even in Attica 
where Athens was, and had later retired to the Peloponnesus where Sparta was, 


an aristocratic commonwealth or kingdom under two kings of the race of Her- 
cules, called Heraclids or nobles, who administered laws and conducted wars 
under the supervision of the ephors. The latter were guardians not of popular 
but of aristocratic liberty. They had king Agis strangled because he had tried to 
bring to the people a law wiping out debts, which Livy [XXXII, 38] calls "a 
firebrand for inflaming the plebs against the optimates" (facem ad acccndcndum 
advcrsus optimates plebcm), and another concerning testaments which would 
have diverted inheritances outside the order of the nobles, within which they 
had previously been kept by the law of legitimate succession; for only the nobles 
had had sui heredes, agnates, or gentiles [no]. There had been similar 
attempts at Rome before the Law of the Twelve Tables, as will be shown later. 
And just as men like [Spurius] Cassius, [Manlius] Capitolinus, the Gracchi and 
other leading citizens of Rome were declared traitors and executed by the 
senate for attempting with like laws to raise up somewhat the poor oppressed 
plebs of Rome, so Agis was strangled by the ephors. So far were the ephors of 
Sparta from being, as Polybius represents them, guardians of the popular liberty 
of Lacedaemon. Thus Athens (named for Minerva, whom they called Athena) 
must have had in its earliest times an aristocratic form of government; and Greek 
history has faithfully recounted as much, telling us (as noted above) that Draco 
reigned in Athens at the time when it was occupied by the optimates. And this 
is confirmed by Thucydides [i.e. Isocrates], who tells us that as long as the city 
was governed by the severe Arcopagites it shone with the finest heroic virtues 
and carried out the worthiest enterprises, just as Rome did in the time when, as 
we shall see later, it was an aristocratic commonwealth. (Juvenal renders their 
name "judges of Mars" in the sense of armed judges, though Ares, Mars, -f 
pege, in Latin pagus, a country or its people, might better have been rendered 
"the people of Mars," as the Roman people were called; for at their birth the 
peoples were composed only of nobles, who alone had the right to bear arms.) 
But Athens was cast down from this lofty state by Pericles and Aristides in 
favor of popular liberty, and Rome suffered a like fate beginning with Sextius 
and Canuleius, tribunes of the plebs. 

593 The other great fragment tells how the Greeks traveling abroad ob- 
served the Curetcs or priests of Cybele scattered through Saturnia or ancient 
Italy, through Crete, and through Asia; so that everywhere among the first 
barbarous nations there must have prevailed kingdoms of Curetes, correspond- 
ing to the kingdoms of the Heraclids scattered through ancient Greece. These 
Curetes were the armed priests who by the clashing of their arms muffled the 
cries of the infant Jove whom Saturn sought to devour in the fable we were just 

594 It follows from our entire argument that the first comitia curiata 
must have had their origin at this most ancient point of time and in this way. 
They arc the oldest comitia we read of in Roman history. They had to be held 
under arms, and they were continued for the purpose of dealing with sacred 


things, for in the earliest times all profane matters were seen under this aspect. 
Livy wonders that such assemblies were held in Gaul at the time when Han- 
nibal passed through. But Tacitus in his Germania tells us that they were also 
held by priests, who dealt out penalties in the midst of arms as if in the presence 
of their gods. This showed a just sense of the fitness of things, for the heroic 
assemblies were armed for dealing out penalties because the supreme authority 
of the laws follows the supreme authority of arms. And speaking generally 
Tacitus tells us that the Germans conducted all their public affairs under arms 
and presided over by priests, as we have just said. Hence among the ancient Ger- 
mans, whose custom allows us to assume the like for all the first barbarous peo- 
ples, we find the kingdom of the Egyptian priests; we find the kingdoms of the 
Curetes or armed priests which prevailed, as we have seen, among the Greeks of 
Saturnia or ancient Italy, of Crete and of Asia; we find the Quirites of ancient 

595 In view of what has been set forth, the law of the Quirites must have 
been the natural law of the heroic peoples of Italy, which, to distinguish it from 
that of the other peoples, was called ius Qutntium Romanorum. This did not 
come about through any pact made between the Sabines and the Romans that 
they should be called Quirites from Cures, the capital city of the Sabines, for 
in that case they would have been called Curetes, the name used by the Greeks 
of Saturnia. And if the capital of the Sabines had been called Ceres (as the Latin 
grammarians will have it), they should rather have been called (and note the dis- 
tortion of ideas!) Cerites, a name applied to those Roman citizens who were con- 
demned by the censors to bear the burdens while having no part of civil honors, 
just as were the plebs who were composed of the jamuli, as we shall presently 
see, at the birth of the heroic cities. It was with the mass of the plebs that the 
Sabines must have been merged in those barbarous times when conquered cities 
were destroyed and the survivors scattered over the plains and forced to till the 
fields for the conquering peoples a fate that the Romans did not spare even 
the mother city of Alba. Such [conquered neighbor cities] were the first prov- 
inces, so called as if for prope victac "near conquered" (for example, Corioli, 
for the conquest of which Marcius was called Coriolanus), as on the other hand 
the last or farthest provinces were so called as being procul victac, "far con- 
quered." And in such plains were settled the first inland colonies, called in all 
propriety coloniae deductae, that is, bands of peasant day laborers led down 
from above; whereas in the case of the last or farthest colonies deductae meant 
just the opposite, for, from the low and cramped quarters of Rome where the 
poor plebeians must have dwelt, they were led to high and strong places in the 
provinces, to keep them in order, to be lords therein, and to change the existing 
lords of the fields into poor laborers. In this way, according to Livy who saw 
only the effects, Rome grows on the ruins of Alba, and the Sabines bring to their 
Roman sons-inJaw the wealth of Ceres as the dowry of their abducted daugh- 
ters, as Florus vainly remarks. And these are the colonies before those which 


came after the agrarian laws of the Gracchi. Livy says the Roman plebs, in the 
heroic contests, they carried on with the nobility, disdained, or rather resented, 
these first colonies because they were not of the same kind as the last; and be- 
cause they did nothing to raise up the Roman plebs, and Livy finds that they 
even added fuel to the contests, he offers these vain reflections upon them. 

596 Finally, that Minerva had signified armed aristocratic orders is at- 
tested by Homer where he tells of Minerva wounding Mars with a stone in the 
course of their contest. (Mars, as we saw above, was the [poetic] character of 
the plebeians who served the heroes in war.) And again where he tells of 
Minerva attempting a conspiracy against Jove, which is after the manner of 
aristocracies, in which the lords by secret counsels overthrow their chiefs when 
the latter affect tyranny. It is only in this time that we read of statues being 
erected to the slayers of tyrants; whereas if the latter had been monarchical 
kings, as commonly supposed, their slayers would have been accounted traitors. 

597 Thus the first cities were made up solely of nobles, who were in com- 
mand. But because they had need of others to serve them, by a common sense of 
utility the heroes were constrained to satisfy the multitude of their aroused 
clients; hence they sent to them the first embassies, which by the law of nations 
are sent by sovereigns. And they sent them with the first agrarian law in the 
world, under which, as the strong do, they conceded to the clients the least they 
could, which was bomtary ownership of the fields the heroes might choose to 
assign to them. Thus it may be true that Ceres discovered both grain and laws. 
This law was dictated by the following natural law of nations: since ownership 
follows power, and since the lives of the famuli were dependent on the heroes 
who had saved them by granting them asylum, it was lawful and right that they 
should have a similarly precarious ownership, which they might enjoy as long 
as it suited the heroes to maintain them in possession of the fields they had 
assigned to them. Thus the famuli merged to form the first plebs of the heroic 
cities, in which they had none of the privileges of citizenship. It is just like one 
of these that Achilles declares he has been treated by Agamemnon when the 
latter wrongfully takes Briseis from him, for he says he has suffered an outrage 
which would not have been committed against a laborer without any rights of 

598 Such were the Roman plebeians down to the struggle over con- 
nubium. For when, by the second agrarian law, conceded to them by the nobles 
in the Law of the Twelve Tables, they had gained quiritary ownership of the 
fields, as we showed many years ago in our Principles of Universal Law (in one 
of the two passages on whose account we do not regret the publication of that 
book), yet, because by the law of nations strangers were not capable of civil 
ownership, and the plebeians were not yet citizens, they were still unable to leave 
their fields intestate to their kin, because they did not have sui hcrcdes, agnates, 
or cognates, which relations were all dependent on solemn nuptials. Nor 
could they even dispose of their fields by testament, for they were not citizens. 


Hence the lands assigned to them soon returned to the nobles, from whom they 
had had the title to their ownership. When they had become aware of this, 
within three short years they demanded the right of connubium. In the condi- 
tion of miserable slaves that Roman history clearly relates that of the plebeians 
to have been, they did not demand the right of intermarrying with the nobles, 
for in that case the Latin would have read connubia cum patribus. What they 
did ask was the right to contract solemn nuptials just as the fathers did, and so 
they demanded connubia patrum, the principal solemnity of which was the pub- 
lic auspices called by Varro and Messala- major auspices, those meant by the 
fathers when they said the auspices were theirs. The plebeians, in making this 
demand, were in effect asking for Roman citizenship, whose natural principle 
was solemn nuptials, which were therefore defined by the jurisconsult Modestinus 
as the sharing of every divine and human right (omnis divini ct humani iuris 
communlcatio) , than which no more proper definition can be given of citizenship 



599 In such fashion, in part from the nature of the strong to preserve 
their acquisitions, and in part from the nature of the benefits which can be 
looked for in civil life, on which two natures of human things we said in the 
Axioms [260-262] the eternal principles of fiefs were founded, the common- 
wealths were born in the world with three kinds of ownership for three kinds of 
fiefs, which were held by three kinds of persons over three kinds of things. 

600 The first was bonitary ownership of rustic or human fiefs, which 
the "men" (those whom Hotman is surprised to find called vassals in the feudal 
laws of the returned barbarism), that is, the plebeians, had of the fruits on the 
farms of their heroes. 

601 The second was quiritary ownership of noble, heroic or armed fiefs, 
nowadays called military; for the heroes, when they united themselves in armed 
orders, kept their sovereignty over their farms. This was what had been in the 
state of nature the best ownership, which Cicero, as we said before, recognizes 
in his DC aruspicum responses as held over a few houses still remaining in the 
Rome of his day, and which he defines as "ownership of real estate free of any 
real encumbrance whether private or public." On this there is a golden passage 
in the Pentatcuc^i, where Moses relates that in the time of Joseph the priests of 
Egypt did not pay the king tribute on their fields. And we have pointed out not 


far back that all the heroic kingdoms were priestly, and we shall demonstrate 
shortly that at first the Roman patricians did not pay the treasury any tribute on 
their fields. When the heroic commonwealths were formed, these sovereign 
private fiefs naturally became subject to the higher sovereignty of the reigning 
heroic orders (each community of which was called a f atria with res understood, 
meaning "interest of the fathers"), which was to be defended and maintained 
because it had preserved their sovereign family powers on a basis of mutual 
equality; and this is the sole mark of aristocratic liberty. 

602 The third, with full propriety called civil ownership [= eminent 
domain], was that which the heroic cities, composed in the beginning of heroes 
only, had over the lands by certain divine fiefs which the family fathers had 
previously received from the provident divinity, as we have shown above (in 
virtue of which they had found themselves sovereigns in the state of the families, 
and had united themselves in reigning orders in the state of the cities); and thus 
they became sovereign civil kingdoms subject to the supreme sovereign God, 
whose providence is recognized by all sovereign civil powers. This is made 
plain to human understanding by the explicit avowal of sovereign powers 
in adding to their titles of majesty such phrases as "by divine providence" or u by 
the grace of God," through which they must publicly profess to have received 
their kingdoms. So that if worship of providence were forbidden, the natural 
consequence would be their fall, for a nation of fatalists or casualists or atheists 
never existed in the world, and we saw above that all the nations of the world, 
through four primary religions and no more [paganism, Judaism, Christianity, 
Islam], believe in a provident divinity. So the plebeians swore by the heroes, 
and such oaths have survived as mchcrculesl mecastor! aedepoll and medius- 
fidius! "by the god Fidius!" who, as we shall see, was the Roman Hercules; but 
the heroes swore by Jove. For the plebeians were at first in the power of the 
heroes (the noble Romans, down to the 4iQth year of the city, exercised the right 
of private incarceration over their plebeian debtors), while the heroes, who 
formed the ruling orders, were in the power of Jove by reason of the auspices. 
If the auspices seemed to permit, the heroes appointed magistrates, enacted laws 
and exercised other sovereign rights; if they seemed to forbid, they abstained. 
All this is that fides deorum ct hominum, "faith of gods and men," to which 
pertain the Latin phrases implorare fidem, "to implore help and aid"; recipere 
in fidcm, "to receive under protection or authority"; and the exclamation proh 
dc&m atque hominum fidcm implorol used by the oppressed to implore on their 
behalf the "force of gods and men," which the Italians rendered in the human 
sense "the power of the world." For this power in virtue of which civil powers 
arc so called, this force, this faith, for which the oaths just quoted attest the 
veneration of the subjects, and this protection which the powerful must extend 
over the weak (in which two things lies the essence of feudalism), are the 
force which sustains and rules this civil world. The center of this force was 
sensed if not rationally understood by the Greeks (as we have noted in the 


medals of their commonwealths) and by the Latins (as we have observed in 
their heroic phrases) to be the ground of each civil sphere. Even today the 
crowns of sovereign powers are surmounted by a sphere, on which is implanted 
the divine symbol of the cross. The sphere, as we have shown above, is the 
golden apple, signifying the high dominion which sovereign powers have over 
the lands of which they are lords; and for this reason it is placed in the left 
hands of sovereigns in the midst of the solemn rites of coronation. Hence it must 
be said that civil powers are masters of the substance of their peoples, which sus- 
tains, contains and maintains all that is above it and rests upon it. In virtue of 
its being one part of this substance a part taken pro indhiso or as an undivided 
whole (to use the scholastic expression for a legal distinction) in the Roman 
laws the patrimony of each family father is called substantia patris or paterna 
substantia. This is at bottom the reason why sovereign civil powers may dispose 
of whatever belongs to their subjects: their persons as well as their acquisitions, 
their works and their labors, and impose thereon tribute or taxes, whenever 
they have to exercise that dominion over their lands which, from different points 
of view but with the same meaning in substance, moral theologians and writers 
on public law now call eminent domain, just as they now speak of the laws 
concerning this domain as the fundamental laws of the realm. Since this do- 
minion is over the lands Ihemselves, sovereigns naturally may not exercise it 
save to preserve the substance of their states, on whose stability or collapse 
hinges the stability or ruin of all the private interests of their peoples. 

603 The Romans had an intuitive sense if not a rational understanding 
of the origin of commonwealths in these eternal principles of fiefs. This is shown 
by the formula they had for laying claim to a piece of land, which has come 
down to us as follows: Aio hunc jundum meum esse ex iure quiritium, "I declare 
this piece of land to be mine by the law of the Quirites." By this formula they 
brought the civil action of vindication to bear on the ownership of the land, 
an ownership depending on the state and proceeding from the, so to speak, cen- 
tral power by which every Roman citizen is the recognized master of his estate 
and owns it pro indiviso (to use the scholastic phrase for a purely legal distinc- 
tion), and for that reason called ownership ex iure quiritium, "by the law of the 
Quirites," who, as shown by a thousand proofs already adduced or to be adduced, 
were originally the Romans armed with spears in public assembly who com- 
posed the city. This is the basic reason why the lands and all goods (for all 
spring from the land), when they have no owner, revert to the public treasury; 
for every private patrimony pro indiviso is public patrimony, and therefore, in 
default of private owners, it loses its designation as a part and retains only that 
of the whole. This must be the reason for the technical legal expression by which 
inheritances, particularly on the part of heredes legitimi [those entitled at law in 
the absence of sui heredes], are said to return (redire) to the heirs, though in 
truth they come to them but once. For those who founded Roman law in the 
process of founding the Roman commonwealth itself gave to all private patri- 


monies the status of fiefs, such as writers on feudal law describe as ex facto ct 
providentia, meaning that they all come from the public patrimony and, by 
pact and providence of the civil laws, devolve from one private owner to another, 
and in default of private owners must return to the source from which they 
came. All this that we have been saying is clearly confirmed by the [provisions 
of the] Lex Papia Poppaea concerning lapsed legacies. This law imposed on 
celibates the just penalty that, because they had neglected to propagate their 
Roman name through matrimony, if they had made testaments they were to be 
declared null and void, and further they were to be considered as having no 
relatives who could inherit ab intestato. In both directions, therefore, they were 
deprived of heirs to preserve their names, and their patrimonies reverted to the 
public treasury, in the quality not of an inheritance but of a peculium accruing, 
in the phrase of Tacitus, to the people as the parent of all, tamquam omnium 
parentem. By which phrase this profound writer recalls the reason of all the 
caducary penalties from the most ancient times when the first fathers of the 
human race occupied the first vacant lands. Such occupation was the original 
source of all ownership in the world. Later these fathers, uniting in cities, 
created the civil power out of their paternal powers, and out of their private 
patrimonies created the public patrimony called the acrarium or public treasury. 
The patrimonies of the citizens pass from one private owner to another in the 
quality of inheritances, but, on reverting to the public treasury, they resume 
their ancient original quality of peculium. 

604 Here, at the generation of their heroic commonwealths, the hero 
poets imagined the eleventh major divinity, Mercury. It is he who carries the 
law to the mutinous famuli in his divine rod (a real word for the auspices), the 
same rod with which, as Vergil tells, he brings back souls from Orcus. (That is, 
he restores to social life the clients who, having left the protection of the heroes, 
were again being scattered and lost in the lawless state which is the Orcus of 
the poets, waiting to swallow all men, as will be explained later.) The rod is 
described for us as having one or two serpents wound about it. (These must 
have been serpent skins signifying the bonitary ownership granted to the famuli 
by the heroes, and the quiritary ownership they reserved for themselves.) There 
are two wings at the top of the rod (signifying the eminent domain of the heroic 
orders), and the cap worn by Mercury is also winged (to confirm their high 
and free sovereign constitution, as the cap remained a hieroglyph of liberty). 
In addition, Mercury has wings on his heels (signifying that ownership of the 
fields resided in the reigning senates). He is otherwise naked (because the 
ownership he carried to the famuli was stripped of all civil solemnity and based 
entirely on the honor of the heroes) just as we have seen Venus and the Graces 
depicted as naked. Thus from the bird of Idanthyrsus, by which he meant to 
say to Darius that he was sovereign lord of Scythia in virtue of the auspices he 
had there, the Greeks took the wings to signify heroic constitutions; and finally, 
in articulate speech, the Romans used the abstract expression "the auspices are 


ours" to show the plcbs that all the heroic civil laws and rights belonged to them- 
selves. So that this winged staff of the Greek Mercury, with the serpents re- 
moved, is the eagle-headed scepter of the Egyptians, Etruscans, Romans and 
finally the English, as we have said above. The staff was called \ery\eion by the 
Greeks because it carried the agrarian law to the famuli of the heroes, called 
f(cryj(es by Homer. It brought also the agrarian law of Servius Tullius ordering 
the census, so that peasants who came under it are spoken of as censiti in the 
Roman laws. By its serpents it brought the bonitary ownership of the fields, and 
the land rent paid by the plebeians to the heroes, as we have pointed out above, 
was called opheleia, from of his, "serpent." Lastly it brought the famous Her- 
culean knot, by which men paid the tithe of Hercules to the heroes, and plebeian 
Roman debtors down to the time of the Petelian law were "bound" or liege vas- 
sals of the nobles. On all these matters we have much to say farther on. 

605 Here it must be added that this Greek Mercury was the Thoth or 
Mercury who gives laws to the Egyptians, represented by the hieroglyph of 
Knef. He is described as a serpent, to denote the cultivated land. He has the 
head of a hawk or eagle, as the hawks of Romulus later became the Roman 
eagles, representing the heroic auspices. He is girt by a belt as a sign of the 
Herculean knot, and in his hand he bears a scepter, which signifies the reign 
of the Egyptian priests. He Wears a winged cap, as an indication of their eminent 
domain over the land. And finally he holds an egg in his mouth, which stood 
for the sphere of Egypt, if indeed it is not the golden apple which, as we have 
shown above, signified the eminent domain the priests held over the lands of 
Egypt. Into this hieroglyph Manetho read the generation of the entire world, 
and the conceit of the learned reached such an absurd extreme that Athanasius 
Kircher in his Obeliscus pamphilius affirms that this hieroglyph signifies the 
Holy Trinity. 

606 Here began the first commerce in the world, from which this Mer- 
cury got his name. He was later regarded as the god of trade, as from his first 
mission he was held to be the god of ambassadors, and with evident truth it was 
said that he had been sent by the gods (an appellation, as we have seen, applied 
to the heroes of the first cities) to men (a name Hotman was amazed to find 
applied to vassals in the returned barbarism). The wings, which we have noted 
as signifying heroic constitutions, were later thought to have been used by Mer- 
cury to fly from heaven to earth and then to return from earth to heaven. But, 
to return to commerce, it began with this kind of immovable goods [real estate], 
and the first payments were, as they could not fail to be, of the most simple and 
natural sort, that is to say in the produce of the land. Similar payments in labor 
or goods are still customary in the transactions of peasants. 

607 All the above history was preserved by the Greeks in the word nomos, 
signifying both law and pasture; for the first law was the agrarian law in ac- 
cordance with which the heroic kings were called shepherds of the people, as 
we have indicated above and as we shall later explain more fully. 


608 Thus the plebeians of the first barbarous nations (in the same fashion 
as among the ancient Germans described by Tacitus, who mistakenly thought 
they were slaves, for, as we have shown, the heroic socii were like slaves) must 
have been scattered about the countryside by the heroes and have dwelt there in 
their houses in the fields assigned to them, and by the produce of the farms have 
contributed whatever was needful to the sustenance of their masters. And to 
these conditions we must add the oath also quoted from Tacitus above re- 
quiring them to guard and defend their masters and to serve to their glory. If 
we look for a legal name to define such relationships, we shall see clearly that 
there is none that fits them better than our term feudalism. 

609 In this fashion the first cities were found to have been based on orders 
of nobles and multitudes of plebeians, with two contrary eternal properties 
emerging from this nature of human civil things which we are discussing: 
namely, [ i ] that the plebeians always want to change the form of government, 
as in fact it is always they who do change it, and [2] that the nobles always 
want to keep it as it is. Hence, in the vicissitudes of civil governments, all those 
who bend their efforts to maintaining the state are called optimates, and states 
themselves are so called from this property of standing firm and upright. 

610 Here appeared two divisions. The first was that between the wise 
and the vulgar; for the heroes founded their kingdoms on the wisdom of the 
auspices, as we stated in the Axioms [250] and as we have fully discussed above. 
As a result of this division the vulgar received the fixed epithet profane, for the 
heroes or nobles were the priests of the heroic cities, as certainly they were among 
the Romans as late as a century after the Law of the Twelve Tables, as we have 
stated above. Hence the first peoples when they took away citizenship used a 
kind of excommunication, such as the interdict of water and fire among the 
Romans, as we shall show later. For the first plebs of the nations were con- 
sidered foreigners, as we shall presently see, and from this came the eternal 
property of not granting citizenship to a man of alien religion. And because 
the plebeians in the first cities, as we have set forth above, had no share in sacred 
or divine things and for many centuries did not contract solemn matrimony, 
the term vulgo quaesiti came to be used for illegitimate children. 

6n The second division was that between citizen and hostis, which 
meant both guest or stranger and enemy, for the first cities were composed 
of heroes and of those received in their asylums (which we must suppose all 
heroic hospices to have been). Similarly the returned barbarian times left in 
Italian ostc for innkeeper and for soldiers' quarters, and ostello for inn. Thus 
Paris was the guest, that is to say enemy, of the royal house of Argos, for 
he kidnaped noble Argive maidens, represented by the [poetic] character of 
Helen. Similarly Theseus was the guest of Ariadne, and Jason of Medea. Both 
abandoned the women and did not marry them, and their actions were held to 
be heroic, while to us, with our present feelings, they seem, as indeed they are, 
the deeds of scoundrels. In like fashion must the piety of Aeneas be defended, for 


he abandoned Dido whom he had violated (to say nothing of the great kind- 
nesses he had received from her and the magnanimous offer she had made of 
the kingdom of Carthage as dowry for their marriage) in order to obey the 
fates who had ordained Lavinia in Italy, though she too was a stranger, as his 
wife. This heroic custom was preserved by Homer in the person of Achilles, 
the greatest of the Greek heroes, who refuses to accept any of the three daughters 
whom Agamemnon offered him in marriage with the royal dowry of seven 
lands well populated with ploughmen and shepherds, and replies that his wish 
is to marry whatever woman in his fatherland his father Peleus may give him. 
In brief, the plebeians were guests in the heroic cities, and against them, to 
repeat our frequent quotation from Aristotle, the heroes swore eternal enmity. 
This same division is expressed for us in the terms citizen and peregrine, taking 
the latter in its original and proper sense of a man wandering through the coun- 
try, as if peragrinus from ager in the sense of territory or district (as in such 
phrases as ager neapolitanus, ager nolanus}\ whereas those strangers who travel 
through the world do not wander through the country but hold straight to the 
public highways. 

612 The origins herein set forth of heroic guests shed a great light on 
Greek history where it relates that the Samians, Sybarites, Troezenians, Amphi- 
politans, Chalcedonians, Cnidians and Chians had their commonwealth? 
changed from aristocratic to popular by strangers. And they give the final touch 
to what we printed many years ago in our Principles of Universal Law concern- 
ing the fable that the Law of the Twelve Tables came from Athens to Rome, 
which is one of the two passages that permit us to believe that that work was 
not entirely useless. For in the article De jorti sanate nexo soluto [I, 5], which 
we proved to have been the subject of that whole contest [between plebeians 
and nobles], the Latin philologians have said that the fortes sanate s were the 
strangers reduced to obedience. Hence they were the Roman plebs which had re- 
volted because they could not obtain from the nobles the certain ownership of 
the fields. For, as long as the nobles retained the royal power of taking them 
back again, the ownership could not have lasting certainty unless the law grant- 
ing it was fixed eternally on a public tablet, determining the rights that had been 
uncertain and manifesting those that had been secret. This is the true meaning 
of what Pomponius tells us. It was on this account that the plebs raised such a 
turmoil that it was necessary to create the decemvirs. These officials gave a new 
form to the state and brought the rebellious plebs back to obedience by proclaim- 
ing them (in the aforesaid article) free from the true bond of bonitary owner- 
ship by which they had been bound to the soil (glebae addicti, adscriptitii or 
censhi) under the census of Servius Tullius, as we have shown above, and bound 
only by the fictitious knot of quiritary ownership. But a vestige of the old bond 
remained until the Petelian law in the right of private imprisonment the nobles 
had over their plebeian debtors. These were the strangers who under tribunitial 
incitements, to use Livy's elegant phrase (incitements enumerated in our Note 


on the Publilian law [104-114]), finally changed the Roman state from aristo- 
cratic to popular. 

613 The fact that Rome was not founded on the first agrarian revolts 
shows us that it must have been a new city, as history tells. It was indeed founded 
on the asylum where Romulus and his companions, while violence still pre- 
vailed everywhere, must first have made themselves strong and then received 
the refugees and founded the clienteles whose nature we have described above. 
About two hundred years must have passed before the clients found their con- 
dition burdensome, for it was just this length of time that elapsed before king 
Servius Tulhus brought them the first agrarian law. In the ancient cities this 
period must have extended to five hundred years for the reason that they were 
composed of simpler men and Rome of a more calculating sort. This is the 
reason why Rome subjugated Latium, then Italy, and then the world, because 
their heroism was more youthful than that of the other Latins. It is also the 
primary reason (as we said in the Axioms [158]) why the Romans wrote their 
heroic history in the vulgar language, whereas the Greeks had written theirs in 

614 All that we have thought out concerning the principles of poetic 
politics and seen illustrated in Roman history is strikingly confirmed by these 
four heroic characters: first, the lyre of Orpheus or Apollo; second, the head 
of Medusa; third, the Roman fasces; fourth and last, the struggle of Hercules 
with Antaeus. 

615 First, the lyre was invented by the Greek Mercury, just as law was 
invented by the Egyptian Mercury. This lyre was given him by Apollo, god of 
civil light or of the nobility, for in the heroic commonwealths the nobles dictated 
the laws, and with this lyre Orpheus, Amphion and other theological poets, who 
professed knowledge of laws, founded and established the humanity of Greece, 
as we shall later explain at greater length. So that the lyre was the union of the 
cords or forces of the fathers, of which the public force was composed which is 
called civil authority, which finally put an end to all private force and violence. 
Hence the law was defined with full propriety by the poets as lyra regnorum, 
"the lyre of kingdoms," in which were brought into accord the family kingdoms 
of the fathers which had hitherto been in disaccord because they were all isolated 
and divided from one another in the state of the families, as Polyphemus told 
Ulysses. This glorious history was later raised to the heavens and described in 
the constellation of the Lyre; and the kingdom of Ireland, on the arms of the 
king of England, charges its shield with a harp. The philosophers afterwards 
took it for the harmony of the spheres attuned by the sun; but it was on earth 
that Apollo played the harp that Pythagoras not only could but must have heard, 
or rather played himself, if we take him as a theological poet and nation founder 
instead of the imposture he has hitherto been accused of being. 

616 The snakes joined in the head of Medusa, whose temples bear wings, 
are the high family domains the fathers had in the state of the families, which 


later went to make up the civil eminent domain. This head was nailed to the 
shield of Perseus, which is the same as that borne by Minerva, who, among the 
arms (that is, in the armed assemblies) of the first nations (among which we 
found that of Rome), dictates the frightful punishments that turn the specta- 
tors to stone. We noted above that one of these snakes was Draco, who is said 
to have written his laws in blood, because Athens (Athena being [the Greek] 
Minerva) was armed with them at the time when it was occupied by the opti- 
mates, as we have also said above. And among the Chinese, who still write 
in hieroglyphics, the dragon, as we have also seen above, is the sign of civil 

617 The Roman fasces are the litui or rods of the fathers in the state 
of the families. For one such staff in the hand of one of these fathers the pregnant 
word scepter is used by Homer, and the father is called a king. This is in his 
description of the shield of Achilles, which contains the history of the world. In 
this passage the epoch of the families is placed before that of the cities, as will 
be fully set forth later. Having taken the auspices with these litui, the fathers 
dictated the prescribed punishments to their children, such as that of the impious 
son which passed into the Law of the Twelve Tables, as we have seen above. 
Hence the union of these rods or litui signifies the generation of the civil au- 
thority we are here discussing. 

618 Finally Hercules (a character of the Heraclids or nobles of the heroic 
cities) struggles with Antaeus (a character of the mutinous famuli) and, by 
lifting him into the air (leading the famuli back into the first cities on the 
heights), conquers him and binds him to the earth. From this came a Greek 
game called the knot, after the Herculean knot by which Hercules founded the 
heroic nations and by reason of which the plebeians paid to the nobles the tithe 
of Hercules, which must have been the census [tax] which was the basis of the 
aristocratic commonwealths. Hence the Roman plebeians under the census of 
Servius Tullius were next or bondsmen of the nobles and, by the oath Tacitus 
tells us was sworn by the ancient Germans to their princes, they were bound 
to serve them as impressed vassals at their own expense in war; a duty the 
Roman plebs still complained of under what has been supposed to have been 
popular liberty. These must have been the first tribute-payers (assidui), who 
fought at their own expense (suis assibus mtlitabant)\ but they were soldiers 
not of fortune but of harsh necessity. 




619 The plebeians continued to be oppressed by the usurious exactions 
and the frequent usurpations of their fields by the nobles, to such a point that 
at the end of the period [Marcius] Philippus, tribune of the plebs, cried out in 
public that two thousand nobles possessed all the fields that should be divided 
among a good three hundred thousand citizens, the number counted at Rome 
in his time. Beginning forty years after the expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus, 
in the comfortable assurance of his death, the nobility had again begun to be in- 
solent toward the unhappy plebs. The senate of those days had been obliged 
to put into practice an ordinance requiring the plebeians to pay into the public 
treasury the census [tax] which previously they had had to pay privately to the 
nobles, in order that thenceforth the treasury should be able to take care of the 
costs of war. From this time the census acquires new prominence in Roman 
history. According to Livy the nobles disdained the administration of it as 
something unworthy of their dignity. But Livy failed to understand that the 
nobles did not want it because it was not the census ordained by Servius Tul- 
lius, which had been the basis of the liberty of the lords and had been paid pri- 
vately to them, for Livy, like all the other authorities, was under the false im- 
pression that the census of Servius Tullius had been the basis of popular liberty. 
For certainly there was no magistracy of greater dignity than the censorship, 
which from the first year had been administered by the consuls. In this fashion 
the nobles, through their own avaricious machinations, came themselves to set 
up the census, which later was the basis of popular liberty. So that when the 
fields had all fallen into their hands in the time of Philippus the tribune, these 
two thousand nobles had to pay the tribute for three hundred thousand other 
citizens then counted (just as in Sparta all the land had come into possession 
of the few), because in the treasury there was a register of the census taxes which 
the nobles had privately imposed on the fields which, in an uncultivated state, 
they had of old allotted to the plebeians for cultivation. On account of the in- 
equality referred to there must have been great agitations and revolts among the 
Roman plebs. These were quelled by Fabius with a most prudent measure which 
earned him the name Maximus. He ordered that the whole Roman people should 
be divided into three classes, senators, knights, and plebeians, and that the citi- 
zens should be placed in these classes according to their means. This consoled 
the plebeians, for the senatorial order which previously had consisted solely of 
nobles and which held all the magistracies, could thenceforward be entered by 


plebeians of wealth, and thus the regular avenue to all civil honors was open to 

620 This development gives truth to the tradition that the census of 
Servius Tullius was the basis of popular liberty, for in it the matter was pre- 
pared and from it the occasions were born, as we set forth hypothetically above 
in the Notes on the Chronological Table, in the passage on the Publilian law. 
It was this ordinance, originating in Rome itself, that established the demcft 
cratic commonwealth there, and not the Law of the Twelve Tables [supposed 
to have been] brought there from Athens. Indeed, what Aristotle calls a demo- 
cratic commonwealth is rendered in Tuscan by Bernardo Segni as a common- 
wealth by census, meaning a free popular commonwealth. This is evident even 
in Livy, for, ignorant as he was of the Roman form of government in those 
times, he nevertheless states that the nobles complained that by that law they 
had lost more in the city than they had gained abroad by force of arms in that 
year, though it was a year of many great victories. And for this reason Publilius, 
the author of the law, was called the people's dictator. 

621 With popular liberty, in which the whole people constitute the city, 
it came about that civil ownership lost its proper meaning of public ownership 
(which had been called civil from the word city) and was dispersed among all 
the private ownerships of the Roman citizens who together now made up the 
Roman city. The dominium optimum or best ownership lost its above stated 
original meaning of strongest ownership, not weakened by any real encum- 
brance, even public, and survived in the meaning of owership of property free 
of any private encumbrance. Quiritary ownership no longer signified such 
ownership of a piece of land that if the client or plebeian lost possession of it the 
noble from whom he had title to it was obliged to come to his defense. The first 
auctores iuris or lawmakers in Roman law were those whose duty it was, in con- 
nection with these clienteles ordained by Romulus and no others, to expound 
to the plebeians these and no other laws. For indeed what [other] laws could 
the nobles have been obliged to set forth to the plebeians, since the latter down to 
the 309th year of Rome had no privilege of citizenship, and since the laws 
themselves down to a century after the Law of the Twelve Tables had been 
kept hidden from the plebs by the nobles in their college of pontiffs? So in 
those days the nobles were auctores iuris in a sense which survived in the 
laudatio auctoritatis by possessors of purchased lands when they are summoned 
in a suit for recovery by others and "cite the authors" [from whom they have 
title and] whom they wish to assist and defend them. Quiritary ownership now 
meant private civil ownership capable of being defended by the action of rei 
vindicatio, whereas bonitary ownership could be maintained by possession only. 

622 In the same fashion and not otherwise, by the eternal nature of 
fiefs, these things recurred in the returned barbarian times. Let us take for ex- 
ample the kingdom of France. Here the various provinces now composing the 
nation were sovereign seigniories of the princes subject to the king of that realm, 


and the princes must have held their property without any public encumbrance. 
Later, through succession, rebellion or failure of heirs, they were incorporated 
into the kingdom, and all the property ex iure Optimo of the princes became 
subject to public exactions. For the lands and houses of the kings, which con- 
tained their royal chambers, having passed by marriage or concession to their 
vassals, are now found subject to taxation and tribute. Thus in hereditary 
kingdoms ownership ex iuie Optimo was gradually confused with private owner- 
ship subject to public charges, just as the rise, which was the patrimony of the 
Roman emperor, was gradually confused with the public treasury. 

623 Our research into the census and the treasury has been the most 
difficult of our investigations into Roman things, as we indicated in the Idea of 
the Work [25]. 



624 Our studies show that the boule and the agora, the two above noted 
heroic assemblies of which Homer speaks, must have corresponded respectively 
to the Roman comitia cunata, the assembly by cunac which we read of as the 
most ancient under the kings, and the comttia tnbuta or assembly by tribes. The 
former were called cunata from quir, "spear," whose genitive quins was later 
used as the nominative, in conformity with what we have set forth in our 
Origins of the Latin Language [Scienza nuova, ist ed., Ill, 36]; just as from 
cheir, "hand," which among all nations meant power, must have been derived 
the Greek \yria, with the same meaning as the Latin curia. Hence came the 
Curetes, who were priests armed with spears, for all the heroic peoples were 
composed of priests and only the heroes had the right to bear arms. The Curetes, 
as we have seen above, were found by the Greeks in Saturma or ancient Italy, in 
Crete, and in Asia. Kyna in its ancient sense must have meant seigniory, just 
as aristocratic commonwealths are now called seigniories. From the tyria of 
these heroic senates came tyros for authority, but this authority, as we have 
observed above and shall observe more closely, was that of ownership. From 
these origins came the modern tyrios for "sir" and kyria for "madam," And as 
the Greek Curetes came from cheir, so we saw above that the Roman Quirites 
came from quir. Quirites was the title of Roman majesty given to the people in 
public assembly, as we have also noted above in a passage in which, comparing 
[the assemblies of] the Gauls and the ancient Germans with that of the Greek 
Curetes, we observed that all the first barbarous peoples held their public assem- 
blies under arms. 


625 Thus the majestic title of Quirites must have been first used at a time 
when the people consisted entirely of nobles, who alone had the right to arm. 
Later, when Rome had become a popular commonwealth, the title passed to the 
people including the plebeians. For the assemblies of the plebs, who at first did 
not have the right to arm, were called comitia tributa from tribus, "tribe." And 
among the Romans, just as in the state of the families the latter were so called 
from the famuli, so in the later state of the cities the term tributum, "tribute,"* 
came from tribus, "tribe," because the tribes of the plebeians met to receive the 
orders of the reigning senate, the chief and most frequent of which were de- 
mands upon the plebeians for contributions to the treasury. 

626 Subsequently, however, Fabius Maximus introduced the [reformed] 
census which divided the whole Roman people into three classes according to 
the patrimonies of the citizens. Before this only the senators had been knights, 
for in heroic times only nobles had the right to arm, and hence in Roman 
history we read that the ancient Roman commonwealth was divided into fathers 
and plebs. Thus in those days senator and patrician had been interchangeable 
terms, and likewise plebeian and ignoble. And as there had thus been only two 
classes of the Roman people, so there had been only two kinds of assembly: one 
the curiata, consisting of fathers or nobles or senators, the other the tributa, con- 
sisting of plebeians or the ignoble. But now that Fabius had divided the citizens 
according to their means into the three classes of senators, knights and plebeians, 
the nobles ceased to be a separate order in the city and were placed in one or an- 
other of the three classes according to their wealth. From that time on patricians 
were distinguished from senators and knights, and plebeians from the base- 
born; and plebeians were no longer contrasted with patricians but with knights 
and senators. A plebeian no longer meant a base-born person but rather a citizen 
of small patrimony who might well be a noble; and on the other hand a senator 
no longer meant a patrician but a citizen of ample patrimony who might well be 
of low birth. 

627 Consequently from that time on comitia centwiata, the assembly 
by hundreds, was the term applied to the assemblies in which the entire Roman 
people of all three classes came together to enact the consular laws among other 
public business. Those assemblies were still called comitia tributa in which the 
plebs alone enacted tribunitial laws. These were the plebiscites, at first so called 
in the sense rendered by Cicero as plebi nota or laws published to the plebs. (An 
example cited by Pomponius is Junius Brutus announcing to the plebs that the 
kings have been forever expelled from Rome.) In monarchies the royal laws 
might with equal propriety be called populo nota, "made known to the people." 
On this account Baldus, as acute as he was lacking in erudition, expressed sur- 
prise that the word plebiscitum should have been written with one s, since in the 
sense of a law enacted by the plebs, it should have had two; the set turn being in 
that case from schcor, not scio [and taking the genitive plcbis instead of the 
dative plebi}. 


628 Lastly, for the certainty of divine ceremonies, there remained the 
comltia curiata or assemblies of the heads of the curiae alone, in which sacred 
matters were dealt with. For in the time of the kings all profane matters were 
regarded as sacred, and the heroes were everywhere Curetes or armed priests, as 
we have said above. Hence, down to the last days of Rome, since paternal power 
was still viewed as sacred (and its regulations are often called sacra f atria in the 
laws), adoptions took place in these assemblies by leges curiatae. 




629 We have seen that the generation of commonwealths began in the 
age of the gods, in which governments were theocratic, that is, divine. Later 
they developed into the first human, that is the heroic, governments, here called 
human to distinguish them from the divine. Within these human governments, 
even as the mighty current of a kingly river retains far out to sea the momentum 
of its flow and the sweetness of its waters, the age of the gods continued to run 
its course, for that religious way of thinking must still have persisted by which 
whatever men themselves did was attributed to the agency of the gods. (Thus 
in the state of the families they made a Jove out of the reigning fathers; and out 
of the same fathers as united in closed orders at the birth of the first cities they 
made a Minerva; out of their ambassadors sent to the aroused clients they made 
Mercury; and finally, as we shall shortly see, out of the corsair heroes they 
made Neptune.) Herein is divine providence to be supremely admiied, for, 
when men's intentions were quite otherwise, it brought them in the first 
place to the fear of divinity (the cult of which is the first fundamental basis of 
commonwealths). Their religion in turn led them to remain fixed on the first 
vacant lands which they occupied before all others (and such occupation is the 
source of all property rights). When the more robust giants had occupied lands 
on the mountain tops where the perennial springs arise, providence ordained 
that thus they should find themselves in healthful and defensible sites and with 
abundance of water, so that they could safely stop there and put an end to their 
wanderings; and these are the three qualities that lands must have in order for 
cities later to arise upon them. Further, again by means of religion, providence 
led them to unite with chosen women for constant and lifelong companionship; 
hence the institution of matrimony, the recognized source of all authority. 


Later, with these women, they were found to have established the families, 
which are the seed-plot of the commonwealths. And finally, with the opening 
of the asylums, they discovered that they had founded the clienteles. Thus the 
elements were prepared from which, with the first agrarian law, the cities were to 
be born, based on the two communities of men that composed them, one of 
nobles to command, the other of plebeians to obey. (The latter are called by 
Telemachus, in a speech in Homer, the "other people," which is to say a sub- 
ject people, different from the reigning people which was made up of heroes.) 
Hence emerges the subject matter of political science, which is nothing other 
than the science of commanding and obeying in states. And at their very birth 
providence causes the commonwealths to spring forth aristocratic in form, in 
conformity with the savage and solitary nature of the first men. This form 
consists entirely, as writers on political theory point out, in guarding the boun- 
daries and the orders, so that peoples newly come to humanity might, by the 
very form of their governments, continue for a long time to remain enclosed 
within these boundaries and orders, and so forget the infamous and nefarious 
promiscuity of the bestial and feral slate. But the minds of men were preoccu- 
pied with particulars and incapable of understanding a common good; they 
were accustomed never to concern themselves with the affairs of others, as 
Homer makes his Polyphemus tell Ulysses (and in this giant Plato recognizes the 
fathers of the families in the so-called state of nature preceding the civil state). 
Providence therefore, by the aforesaid aristocratic form of their governments, led 
them to unite themselves to their fatherlands in order to preserve such great 
private interests as their family monarchies were (for this was what they were 
entirely bent upon), and thus, beyond any design of theirs, they were brought 
together in a universal civil good called commonwealth, 

630 Now here, by those divine proofs we spoke of above in the Method, 
let us consider and meditate on the simplicity and naturalness with which provi- 
dence ordered these affairs of men, of which they said truly though in a false 
sense that they were all the work of the gods. And let us consider in this con- 
nection the immense number of civil effects which may all be traced to those four 
causes which, as will be observed throughout this work, are the four elements 
as it were of the civil universe; namely, religion, marriage, asylum and the 
first agrarian law which we have discussed above. Then let us ask ourselves if, 
among all human possibilities, so many and such various and diverse effects 
could in any other way have had simpler or more natural beginnings among 
those very men who are said by Epicurus to have been born of chance and by 
Zeno to have been creatures of necessity. Yet chance did not divert them nor fate 
force them out of this natural order. For at the point when the commonwealths 
were to spring forth, the matter was all prepared and ready to receive the form, 
and there came forth the formation of the commonwealths, composed of mind 
and body. The prepared materials were these men's own religions, their own 
languages, theif own lands, their own nuptials, their own names (clans or 


houses), their own arms, and hence their own commands, their own magistrates, 
and finally their own laws. And because these things were their own they were 
completely free and therefore constitutive of true commonwealths. And all this 
came about because all the aforesaid institutions had previously belonged to the 
family fathers as monarchs in the state of nature. The fathers at this juncture, 
by uniting themselves in an order, came to produce the civil sovereign power, 
just as in the state of nature they had held the family powers, subject to no 
one under God. This sovereign civil person was formed of mind and body. The 
mind was an order of wise men, with such wisdom as could naturally exist in 
that time of extreme crudeness and simplicity. Hence the eternal property of 
commonwealths that without an order of wise men states may present the ap- 
pearance of commonwealths, but are so many dead and soulless bodies. There 
was also the body, formed of the head and lesser members. Hence this second 
eternal property of commonwealths: that some men must employ their minds 
in the tasks of civil wisdom, and others their bodies in the arts and crafts that 
are needed in peace as well as in war. And there is a third eternal property: 
that the mind should always command and the body should have perpetually 
to obey. 

631 Yet here is an even greater cause for marveling. By bringing about 
the birth of the families (all of them born with some awareness of a divinity 
although, because of their ignorance and disorder, none knew the true one), since 
each family had its own religion, language, lands, nuptials, name, arms, govern- 
ment and laws, providence had at the same time brought into being the na- 
tural law of the gentes maiores, with all the aforesaid properties, to be used later 
by the family fathers over their clients. In like fashion, in creating the common- 
wealths, by means of the aristocratic form in which they arose, providence caused 
the natural law of the gentes maiotes (or families), which had been formerly 
observed in the state of nature, to be transformed into the natural law of the 
gentes minor es (or peoples), to be observed in the time of the cities. For the 
family fathers, to whom all the aforesaid prerogatives belonged to the exclusion 
of their clients, at the time when they banded themselves together in a natural 
order against the latter, came to confine all the aforesaid properties within 
their civil orders against the plebs. In this consisted the severely aristocratic form 
of the heroic commonwealths. 

632 In this way the natural law of nations, which is now observed among 
peoples and nations, was born as a property of the sovereign civil powers at the 
birth of the commonwealths. So a people or nation that has not within itself a 
sovereign civil power vested with all the aforesaid properties is not properly a 
nation or people at all, rior can it exercise abroad in its relations with other 
peoples or nations the natural law of nations, but both the law and its exercise 
will fall to another people or nation superior to it. 

633 What we have here set forth, added to what we have mentioned 
above of the heroes of the first cities calling themselves gods, will explain the 


meaning of the phrase iura a diis posita, "laws laid down by the gods," applied to 
the dictates of the natural law of nations. But when the natural law of human 
nations ensued, on which we have cited Ulpian several times above, and upon 
which the philosophers and moral theologians based their understanding of the 
natural law of fully unfolded eternal reason, the phrase was fitly reinterpreted 
to mean that the natural law of nations was ordained by the true God. 



634 All the historians date the beginning of the heroic age from the 
corsair raids of Minos and from Jason's naval expedition to Pontus. It continued 
through the Trojan war and the wanderings of the heroes and came to an end 
with the return of Ulysses to Ithaca. Thus in those times the last of the major 
divinities, Neptune, must have been created. This inference we base on, the 
authority of the historians, reinforced by philosophical reasoning assisted by 
several golden passages of Homer. The philosophic reason is that the naval 
and nautical arts were the last inventions of the nations, since it took the flower 
of genius to invent them; so much so that Daedalus, their inventor, remained 
a symbol of genius itself, and daedala tellus is used by Lucretius in the sense of 
"the ingenious earth." The Homeric passages to which we refer are in the 
Odyssey. Whenever Ulysses makes a landing or is driven ashore by the tempest, 
he always mounts a hill to look inland for a trace of smoke which will indicate 
that the land is inhabited by men. These Homeric passages are reinforced by that 
golden passage in Plato which we cited from Strabo above in the Axioms [296], 
in which he tells of the horror the first nations long had of the sea. The reason 
for this was pointed out by Thucydides where he says that through fear of 
corsair raids the Greek nations were slow to come down and dwell on the 
coasts. On this account Neptune is portrayed to us as armed with the trident 
with which he made the earth shake. The trident must have been a great hook 
for grappling ships. By a fine metaphor the hook is called a tooth, and the three 
in the prefix means the superlative, as we have noted above. With this hook he 
made the lands of men quiver in fear of his raids. Later, already in Homer's day, 
he was believed to make the physical earth shake, and ir this opinion Homer was 
followed by Plato with his abyss of waters which he placed in the bowels of 
the earth, with what reason we shall show later. 

635 Of such nature must have been the bull in the shape of which Jove 
abducts Europa, and the Minotaur or bull of Minos by which he steals youths 
and maidens from the shores of Attica (on which account "horns of ships" 


survived in the sense of sails, as used by Vergil). Landsmen thus set forth in all 
truth that the Minotaur had devoured their children, for to their horror and grief 
they had seen them swallowed up by the ships. Thus too the Ore seeks to devour 
Andromeda, lashed to the rock and petrified with terror (so Latin kept the 
phrase tcrrorc defixus, "rigid with fear"); and the winged horse which Perseus 
rides to her rescue must have been another corsair ship, as the sails were after- 
wards called the wings of ships. Vergil too, who was acquainted with these 
heroic antiquities, in speaking of Daedalus, inventor of ships, states that he 
flics with the machine which he calls alarum rcmiglum, "the oarage of wings"; 
and Daedalus, we are told, was the brother of Theseus. Thus Theseus must be 
a [poetic] character of the Athenian youths who, under the law of force practiced 
on them by Minos, are devoured by hi3 bull or pirate ship. He is taught by 
Ariadne (seafaring art) by means of the thread (of navigation) to escape from 
the labyrinth of Daedalus (which, before those labyrinths which are the elegant 
playthings of royal villas, must have been the Aegean Sea because of the great 
number of islands it bathes and contains). Then, having learned the art from 
the Cretans, he abandons Ariadne and returns with Phaedra, her sister (that is, 
with a similar art). Thus he slays the Minotaur and frees Athens from the cruel 
tribute imposed by Minos (which is to say, the Athenians in their turn took up 
piratical raiding). And so, as Phaedra was the sister of Ariadne, Theseus was the 
brother of Daedalus. 

636 Apropos of these matters Plutarch in his life of Theseus says that 
the heroes considered it a great honor and an added prestige to their arms to 
be called robbers, just as in the returned barbarian times "corsair" was re- 
garded as a title of nobility. It is said that the laws of Solon, who lived about 
that time, permitted associations for purposes of piracy; so well did Solon under- 
stand this complete humanity of ours in which pirates are not protected by the 
natural law of nations. What is even more astonishing is that Plato and Aristotle 
made robbery a species of hunting; and with these great philosophers of a most 
civilized nation the ancient Germans, in their barbarism, are in agreement. For 
among them, according to Caesar, robbery was not only not regarded as in- 
famous but was reckoned among the exercises of valor by which those who were 
not brought up to the practice of any art escaped from idleness. This barbarous 
custom endured for such a long time afterwards among the most enlightened 
nations that, according to Polybius, one of the terms of peace imposed by the 
Romans on the Carthaginians was that they were not to pass Cape Pelorum in 
Sicily either for piracy or for trade. Still the attitude of the Carthaginians and 
Romans is of minor importance, for they themselves professed to be barbarians 
in those days, as may be seen from several passages in Plautus in which he says 
that he has turned the Greek comedies into a "barbarous tongue," meaning 
Latin. What is more remarkable is that the highly civilized Greeks, in the times 
of their most cultivated humanity, should have practiced such a barbarous 
custom, which indeed provided them with almost all the subjects of their 


comedies. It is perhaps because of this custom, still practiced by the inhabitants 

against the Christians, that the coast of Africa facing us is called Barbary. 

637 The principle of this oldest law of war was the inhospitality of the 
heroic peoples which we have discussed above, for they looked on strangers as 
perpetual enemies and rested their own reputation for power on keeping them 
at the greatest possible distance from their frontiers (as Tacitus tells us of the 
Suevi, the nation of greatest prestige among the ancient Germans). They thus 
looked upon strangers as robbers, as we observed not far back. There is a golden 
passage of Thucydides on this subject in which he remarks that down to his 
time when travelers met on land or sea they would ask one another if they were 
robbers, meaning foreigners. But as the Greeks became more civilized they 
soon cast aside that barbarous custom and called barbarous all the nations that 
retained it. It was in this sense that the name Rtirbaria remained in use for the 
land of the Troglodytes, who were supposed to kill foreigners who crossed 
their borders, as indeed even today there are barbarous nations in which this is 
the custom. It is certain that civilized nations do not allow strangers to enter 
without first asking permission. 

638 To the nations that the Greeks called barbarous for this reason be- 
longs the Roman. This we know from two golden passages in the Law of the 
Twelve Tables. One is: Adyersus hostem aeterna auctoritas esto fill, 7], "against 
a foreigner the right in property shall be everlasting." The other [II, 2] is re- 
ported by Cicero [De off. 1.12.37]: Si status dies sit, cum hoste vemto, "if a day 
has been appointed, let him appear with the stranger." Here the word hostts, on 
the basis of a conjecture in general terms, is commonly taken as a metaphor for 
the adversary in the lawsuit. But on this very passage Cicero makes the observa- 
tion, very much to our point, that the ancients meant by hostis what was later 
meant by pcregrmus. These two passages taken together give us to understand 
that the Romans originally regarded strangers as eternal enemies at war. How- 
ever, the said two passages must be understood as applying to those who were the 
first hostcs in the world. These, as noted above, were the foreigners received 
into the asylums, who later took on the quality of plebeians at the formation of 
the heroic cities, as shown farther back. Thus the passage in Cicero means that 
on the appointed day "the noble shall appear with the plebeian to claim his 
farm for him," as we have also said above. Hence the "everlasting right of 
property" mentioned in the same law must have been against the plebeians, 
toward whom, as we learned from Aristotle in the Axioms [271], the heroes 
swore eternal enmity. This heroic law kept the plebeians, however long in 
possession, from usucapting any piece of Roman property, for title to such 
property could pass only from noble to noble. This is a good part of the reason 
why the Law of the Twelve Tables did not recognize simple possession. Only 
later, when heroic law was beginning to fall into abeyance and human law was 
gaining in strength, did the praetors assist the plebeians by [recognizing] simple 
possession extra ordinem; for neither by express provision nor by any interpreta- 


tion could they find in the Law [of the Twelve Tables] any basis for ordinary 
judgments, whether strict or equitable. All this was because that Law held sim- 
ple possession by a plebeian to be in every case at the pleasure of the nobles. 
Moreover it took no notice of the underhand or violent acts of the nobles be- 
cause of that other eternal property of the first commonwealths (on which 
also we cited Aristotle in the Axioms [269]), namely that they had no laws con- 
cerning private wrongs or offenses, which were left to the individuals them- 
selves to settle by force of arms, as we shall show fully in Book IV. Among the 
formalities of rei vindicatio there was a survival of this real force in the feigned 
force which Aulus Gelhus called festucary, "exercised with a straw." All this is 
confirmed by the interdict Unde vi granted by the praetor extra ordlnem because 
the Law of the Twelve Tables did not take cognizance of private violence or 
even mention it; and also by the actions DC vi bonorum raptor um and Quod 
metus caussa, which came late and were likewise praetorian. 

639 Now the heroic custom of holding strangers to be eternal enemies, 
which was observed by each people privately in peace, when extended abroad, 
took the form recognized as common to all the heroic nations of carrying on 
eternal wars with each other, with continual looting and raiding. Thus from 
the cities, which Plato tells us were born on the basis of arms, as we have seen 
above, and began to govern themselves in military fashion before the existence 
of such wars as are waged between cities, we get the term war itself; for the 
Greek polemos, "war," is from polis, "city." 

640 In proof of what we have said we must make this important observa- 
tion: that the Romans extended their conquests and gained the victories they 
won throughout the world on the basis of four laws by which they governed the 
plebeians at home. In the barbarian provinces they made use of the clienteles of 
Romulus, sending Roman colonists into them, who took the place of the previous 
masters of the fields and made laborers of them. In the civilized provinces they 
applied the agrarian law of Servius Tullius, granting them bomtary ownership 
of the fields. In Italy they adopted the agrarian law of the Twelve Tables, grant- 
ing them the quiritary ownership enjoyed by the lands called sola italica. And 
to the municipia or towns which had earned better treatment they accorded 
the right of connubium and the share in the consulship which had been extended 
to their own plebs. 

641 The eternal enmity between the first cities made declarations of 
war unnecessary, and indiscriminate pillaging was regarded as lawful. In- 
versely, when the nations had been weaned away from this barbarous custom, 
undeclared wars came to be regarded as piracy, no longer recognized by the 
natural law of the nations called human by Ulpian. This same eternal enmity 
of the first peoples may also explain to us that the long time during which the 
Romans had waged war on the Albans is to be understood as the entire previous 
period in which both sides had subjected each other to the pillaging raids of 
which we are here speaking. Hence it is more reasonable that Horatius should 


have killed his sister because she was mourning the Curiatius who had abducted 
her than that she should have been married to him. For Romulus himself could 
not take a wife from among these same Albans; it in no way availed him that 
he was of the royal house of Alba nor that he rendered his city a great service 
by expelling the tyrant Amulius and restoring the legitimate king Numitor. 
It is well worth noting that victory or defeat in war is decided by the issue of com- 
bat between the parties principally interested. In the case of the Alban war this 
lay between the three Horatii and the three Curiatii; in that of the Trojan 
war, between Paris and Menelaus. When combat between the latter two was 
indecisive, the Greeks and Trojans carried on the war to the end. In similar 
fashion in the last barbarian period the princes would decide the quarrels of their 
kingdoms by personal combat, on the issue of which the fortunes of their peoples 
depended. Hence it is clear that Alba was the Latin Troy and Horatia the 
Roman Helen (of whom the Greeks had a similar story reported by Gerard 
Jan Vossius in his Rhetorica); and the ten years of the siege of Troy among 
the Greeks must correspond to the ten years of the siege of Veii among the 
Latins. In both cases we have a finite number standing for the infinity of all pre- 
ceding time during which the cities had practiced eternal hostilities on each 

642 For the number system, because of its extreme abstractness, was the 
last thing to be grasped by the nations (as in this work we set forth in another 
connection). When their minds had further developed, the Latins used "six 
hundred" for a number beyond reckoning (just as the Italians at first said "a 
hundred" and later "a hundred and a thousand"), for the idea of the infinite 
can be entertained only by the mind of a philosopher. Perhaps it is on this 
account that the first peoples said "twelve" to signify a large number. For such 
was the number assigned to the gods of the gentes maiores, though Varro and 
the Greeks counted thirty thousand of them. Twelve also were the labors of 
Hercules, which must have been countless. The Latins said there were twelve 
parts of the as, though it can be infinitely divided. This must have been the 
case also of the Law of the Twelve Tables, because of the infinite number of 
laws which were subsequently from time to time inscribed on tables. 

643 At the time of the Trojan war it must have been that, in that part 
of Greece in which it was waged, the Greeks were called Achaeans. (They had 
previously been called Pelasgians from Pelasgus, one of the most ancient heroes 
of Greece, of whom we have spoken above.) The name Achaeans must then 
have gone on spreading through all Greece (for it lasted down to the time of 
Lucius Mummius, according to Pliny), even as through all later time they were 
called Hellenes. Thus the propagation of the name Achaeans must have led by 
Homer's time to the supposition that all the Greeks had been allied in that war, 
just as the name of Germany, according to Tacitus, spread ultimately over all 
that great part of Europe which was thus known by the name of those who had 
crossed the Rhine, driven out the Gauls, and begun to call themselves Germans. 


Thus the glory of this people spread their name over Germany, as the report of 
the Trojan war spread the name Achaeans over all Greece. For the peoples in 
their first barbarism were so far from knowing anything of alliances that not 
even the peoples of offended kings would deign to take up arms to avenge them, 
as we have observed with regard to the beginning of the Trojan war. 

644 Only by understanding this nature of human civil affairs and in no 
other way can we solve the amazing problem of Spain. For she was the mother 
of many nations acclaimed by Cicero as most vigorous and warlike, and Caesar 
found it so by experience, for in all other parts of the world, in which he was 
everywhere victorious, he fought for the Empire, but in Spain alone he fought 
for his life. Why then was it that after the fame of Saguntum (which made 
Hannibal sweat for eight months on end, though he had at his disposal and still 
fresh the entire forces of Africa, with which later though much reduced and ex- 
hausted he won the battle of Cannae and came very close to holding a triumph 
over Rome on the very Capitoline), and after the renown of Numantia (which 
shook the glory of Rome, though she had already triumphed over Carthage, 
and perplexed the valiant and wise Scipio, the conqueror of Africa), why was 
it that Spain did not then unite all her peoples in an alliance to set up a world 
empire on the banks of the Tagus? Her failure gave occasion for the unhappy 
elogium of Lucius Florus, that she realized her strength only after the whole 
country had been conquered part by part. (Tacitus, in his life of Agricola, mak- 
ing the same observation of the Britons, who at that time were found to be 
savage fighters, uses the equally apt expression: dum slnguli pugnant, universi 
vincuntur, "while they fight singly, all are conquered.") For, so long as they were 
not attacked, they remained like beasts within the dens of their confines and went 
on living the savage and solitary life of the Cyclopes, which we have set forth 

645 The historians have been struck by the fame of heroic naval war- 
fare and so blinded by it as not to take note of heroic land warfare, much less of 
heroic politics by which in those times the Greeks must have governed them- 
selves. But Thucydides, a most acute and discerning writer, has left us an item of 
great significance. He tells us that the heroic cities were all without walls, as 
Sparta continued to be in Greece, and Numantia, the Spanish Sparta, in Spain. 
And, with their arrogant and violent natures, the heroes were continually ejecting 
each other from their seats, as Amulius drove out Numitor and Romulus drove 
out the former and restored the latter to the kingdom of Alba. So much do the 
genealogies of the heroic royal houses of Greece and a continuous succession of 
fourteen Latin kings give assurance to the chronologists in their calculations of 
time! For in the recurrence of barbarism, when it was at its crudest in Europe, 
we read of nothing more varying and inconstant than the fortune of kingdoms, 
as we pointed out above in the Notes on the Chronological Table. Indeed 
Tacitus most knowingly indicates as much in the opening words of his Annals: 
Urbetn Romam principio regcs habuerc, "The city of Rome in the beginning 


was held by kings"; for he uses the verb for the weakest of the three degrees of 
possession distinguished by jurisconsults: habere, tenere, possidere. 

646 The conduct of civil affairs under such kingdoms is related to us by 
poetic history in the numerous fables that deal with contests of song (taking 
song in that sense of the verbs canere and cantarc in which they mean "to pre- 
dict") and consequently refer to heroic contests over the auspices. 

647 Thus the satyr Marsyas (the monster described by Livy as secum ipse 
discors), when overcome by Apollo in a contest of song, is flayed alive by the 
god (note the savagery of heroic punishments!). Linus, who must be a character 
of the plebeians (for certainly the other Linus was a poet hero, being numbered 
with Amphion, Orpheus, Musaeus and others), is slain by Apollo in a similar 
contest of song. In both these fables the contest is with Apollo, the god of divinity, 
that is, of the science of divination, or of the auspices; and we found above that 
he was the god of the nobility also, since the science of the auspices, as we have 
shown by so many proofs, belonged to the nobles alone. 

648 The sirens, who lull sailors to sleep with their song and then cut 
their throats; the Sphinx, who puts riddles to travelers and slays them on their 
failure to find the solution; Circe, who by her enchantments turns into swine the 
comrades of Ulysses (so that cantare, singing, was later understood in the sense 
of practicing witchcraft,* as in the phrase cantando rumpitur anguis, "the snake 
is burst by the singing"; whence magic, which in Persia must at first have 
meant wisdom in divination by auspices, remained with the meaning of the 
art of magicians, and their spells were known as incantations): all these portray 
the politics of the heroic cities. The sailors, travelers and wanderers of these 
fables are the plebeians who, contending with the heroes for a share in the 
auspices, are vanquished in the attempt and cruelly punished. 

649 In the same way Pan the satyr tries to seize the nymph Syrinx, 
famous in song, as we have said above, and finds himself embracing only reeds; 
and likewise Ixion, enamored of Juno, goddess of solemn nuptials, attempting to 
embrace her finds only a cloud in his arms. Here the reeds signify the lightness 
and the cloud the emptiness of natural marriage; hence from the cloud, the fable 
tells, were born the centaurs, that is to say the plebeians, who are the monsters 
of discordant natures that Livy speaks of, who steal their brides from the 
Lapithae while the latter are still celebrating their weddings. So too Midas 
(whom we found above to be a plebeian) wears concealed an ass's ears, and the 
reeds that Pan seizes (that is, natural marriage) reveal them; just as the Roman 
patricians made out to their plebeians that the latter were all monsters because 
they practiced marriages like those of wild animals (ugitabant connubia more 

650 Vulcan (who here must also be plebeian), attempting to interfere in 
a contest between Jove and Juno, is precipitated from heaven by a kick of Jove 
and is left lame as a result of it. This must refer to a struggle by the plebeians 
to secure from the heroes a share in the auspices of Jove and the solemnized 


marriages of Juno, in which, having been worsted, they came out lamed, that is, 

651 So Phaethon, of the family of Apollo and hence regarded as a 
child of the Sun, in attempting to drive his father's golden chariot (the cart of 
poetic gold, that is, grain), strays from the accustomed paths leading to the 
granary of the father of his family (that is, lays claim to ownership of the fields), 
and is precipitated from heaven. 

652 Most significant of all is the fall from heaven of the apple of discord 
(the apple which, as we have shown above, signifies the ownership of the fields, 
for the first discord arose over the fields which the plebeians wanted to cultivate 
for themselves), and the quarrel of Venus (who must here be plebeian) with 
Juno (of solemn nuptials) and Minerva (of authority). For, apropos of the 
judgment of Paris, by good fortune we have a remark of [pseudo-] Plutarch in 
his De vita ct pocsi Homcn [I, 5] to the effect that the two verses toward the 
end of the Iliad [XXIV, 28-9] which refer to it, are not Homer's but by a later 

653 Atalanta, by throwing away the apples of gold, defeats her suitors 
in the race, just as Hercules, wrestling with Antaeus, overcomes him by lifting 
him into the air, as we have set forth above. [The meaning here is that] Atalanta 
first concedes to the plebeians the bonitary and then the quiritary ownership of 
the fields while withholding connubium; just as the Roman patricians [con- 
ceded] the first agrarian law of Servius Tullius and the second agrarian law of 
the Twelve Tables, yet retained connubium as a prerogative of their own order 
in the article Connubia incommumcata plebi sunto, "Solemnized marriages shall 
be withheld from the plebs," which is a direct consequence of the article Auspicta 
incommumcata plcbi sunto, "The auspices shall be withheld from the plebs." 
Wherefore, three years later, the plebs began to lay claim to connubium too, 
and, after a heroic contest of three years, succeeded in winning it. 

654 The suitors of Penelope invade the palace of Ulysses (that is the 
kingdom of the heroes), arrogate to themselves the title of kings, devour the 
royal substance (having taken over the ownership of the fields), and seek to 
marry Penelope (claiming the right to connubium). In some versions Penelope 
remains chaste and Ulysses strings up the suitors like thrushes on a net of the 
sort in which the heroic Vulcan caught the plebeian Mars and Venus. (That is, 
Ulysses binds them to cultivate the fields like the laborers of Achilles, just as 
Coriolanus sought to reduce the plebeians who were not satisfied with the 
agrarian law of Servius Tullius to the condition of the laborers of Romulus, as we 
have related above.) Again, Ulysses fights Irus, a poor man, and kills him (which 
must refer to an agrarian contest in which the plebeians were devouring the 
substance of Ulysses). In other versions Penelope prostitutes herself to the 
suitors (signifying the extension of connubium to the plebs) and gives birth 
to Pan, a monster of two discordant natures, human and bestial. This is pre- 
cisely the creature secum ipse discors of Livy, for the Roman patricians told the 


plebeians that, if they were to share with them the connubium of the nobles, the 
resulting offspring would be like Pan, a monster of two discordant natures 
brought forth by Penelope who had prostituted herself to the plebeians. 

655 From Pasiphae, who has lain with a bull, is born the minotaur, a 
monster of two diverse natures. This story must mean that the Cretans ex- 
tended connubium to foreigners, who must have come to Crete in the ship 
called a bull in which, as we explained above, Minos abducted youths and 
maidens from Attica, and in which Jove had earlier abducted Europa. 

656 The fable of lo is also to be assigned to this kind of civil history. For 
Jove falls in love with her (is favorable to her with his auspices), and Juno be- 
comes jealous (with that civil jealousy, explained above, with which the 
heroes guarded their solemn nuptials) and has her watched by Argos of the 
hundred eyes (that is, by the Argive fathers, each with his eye or clearing, that is, 
his cultivated land according to the interpretation given above). Then Mercury 
(who must here be a character of the mercenary plebeians), by the sound of 
his pipe, or rather by his singing, lulls Argos to sleep (overcomes the Argive 
fathers in the struggle for the auspices, by which the fortunes were sung or di- 
vined in solemn nuptials), whereupon lo is changed into a cow and lies with 
the bull with which Pasiphae had lain, and goes wandering into Egypt (that 
is among those foreign 'Egyptians with whom Danaus had driven the Inachids 
from the kingdom of Argos). 

657 But Hercules in his old age becomes effeminate and spins at the 
behest of lole and Omphale; that is, the heroic right to the fields falls to the plebs. 
The heroes called themselves viri, men, in contrast to the plebeians, and viri in 
Latin has the same meaning as heroes in Greek. Vergil uses the word em- 
phatically in that sense at the beginning of his Aeneid: Arma virumque cano; 
and Horace translates the first verse of the Odyssey: Die mihi, Musa, virum, Viri 
continued among the Romans to signify husbands by solemn matrimony, 
magistrates, priests and judges, for, in the poetic aristocracies, solemn matrimony, 
magistracy, priesthood, and judgeship were all confined to the heroic orders. 
Thus [the fable relates that] the heroic right to the fields was extended to the 
plebeians of Greece, just as the Roman patricians conceded to their plebeians 
the quiritary right by the second agrarian law, which was fought for and won in 
the Law of the Twelve Tables, as shown above. Precisely in the same way in 
the returned barbarian times feudal goods were called goods of the lance, and 
alodial goods were called goods of the distaff, as we find in the laws of the 
Angles. Hence the royal arms of France (in signification of the Salic law which 
excludes women from inheriting that kingdom) are supported by two angels 
clothed in dalmatics and armed with spears, and are adorned with the heroic 
motto: JJlia non nent, "The lilies do not spin." So that just as Baldus, to our 
good fortune, called the Salic Law ius gentium Gallorum, "the law of the Gallic 
nations," so we may apply the term ius gentium romanorum to the Law of the 
Twelve Tables inasmuch as it rigorously confined intestate succession to sui 


heredes, agnates and gentiles. For we shall show later how little truth there 
is in the belief that in the early times of Rome there had existed a custom 
whereby daughters could succeed to their fathers ab intestato, and that this 
custom had passed into law in the Twelve Tables. 

658 Finally Hercules breaks into a fury on being stained by the blood of 
the centaur Nessus the same plebeian monster of two discordant natures 
mentioned by Livy that is, in the midst of civil fury he extends connubium to 
the plebs and is contaminated by plebeian blood and so dies, even as the god 
Fidius, the Roman Hercules, dies with the Petelian law called DC nexu. By this 
law vinculum fidei victum est, "the bond of faith was broken," although Livy 
connects it with an event occurring a decade later but similar in substance to 
the event which had given occasion to the Petelian law, an event in which it was 
necessary that the matter of the aforesaid phrase should be put into execution and 
not simply decreed. Livy must have found the phrase in some ancient chronicler 
whom he follows with as much good faith as ignorance. For when the plebeian 
debtors were freed from private incarceration by their noble creditors, debtors 
were still constrained by judicial decisions to pay their debts, but they were 
released from the feudal law, the law of the Herculean knot, which had had 
its origin in the first asylums of the world, the bond by which Romulus had 
founded Rome in his asylum. It seems very likely, therefore, that the chronicler 
had written vinculum Fidti, the bond of the god Fidius, whom Varro asserts to 
have been the Roman Hercules, and that later historians, not understanding 
the phrase, erroneously read the word as fidei. The same heroic natural law is 
found among the American Indians, and in our world it still obtains among the 
Abyssinians of Africa and the Muscovites and Tartars of Europe and Asia. It was 
practiced with greater mildness by the Hebrews, among whom debtors served 
only seven years. 

659 And, to conclude, in like manner Orpheus, the founder of Greece, 
with his lyre or cord or force, which signify the same thing as the knot of Her- 
cules (the knot with which the Petelian law was concerned), met his death at 
the hands of the Bacchantes (the infuriated plebs), who broke his lyre to pieces 
(the lyre being the law, as we have so often shown above); so that already in 
Homer's time the heroes were taking foreign women to wife, and bastards were 
coming into royal successions, showing that Greece had already begun to 
countenance popular liberty. 

660 From all this we must conclude that these heroic contests gave the 
name to the heroic period; and that in these contests many chieftains, vanquished 
and humbled, were obliged to take to the sea with their followers and wander 
in search of other lands. Some of them finally returned to their native countries, 
like Menelaus and Ulysses. Others settled in foreign parts, like Cecrops, Cadmus, 
Danaus and Pelops, who settled in Greece (for these heroic contests had arisen 
many centuries earlier in Phoenicia, Egypt and Phrygia, since civilization had 
begun earlier in those places). Dido must have been one of the latter sort; 


fleeing from Phoenicia to escape the faction of her brother by whom she was 
pursued, she settled in Carthage, which was called Punica as if for Phoenica. 
And of the Trojan refugees after the destruction of their city, Capys stopped at 
Capua, Aeneas landed in Latium, and Antenor reached Padua. 

661 Thus ended the wisdom of the theological poets, the sages or states- 
men of the poetic age of the Greeks, such as Orpheus, Amphion, Linus, Musaeus 
and others. By singing to the Greek plebs of the force of the gods in the auspices 
(which were the praises that such poets must have sung of the gods, that is the 
praises of divine providence which it behooved them to sing), they kept the plebs 
in subjection to their heroic orders. In like fashion Appius [Claudius], the 
grandson of the decemvir, about the 3ooth year of Rome, as we have said else- 
where, by singing t,o the Roman plebeians of the force of the gods in the 
auspices, of which the nobles claimed to have the science, kept them in obedience 
to the nobles. And in the same way Amphion, by singing to his lyre, causes 
the stones to move and the walls of Thebes, which Cadmus had founded three 
centuries earlier, to arise; that is, he confirms therein the heroic state. 






662 The numerous parallels we have cited in human civil affairs be- 
tween the Romans and the Greeks, by which we have repeatedly shown that 
ancient Roman history is a perpetual historic mythology of the many various 
and diverse fables of the Greeks, must firmly convince anyone of understanding 
(which is neither memory nor imagination) that from the times of the kings 
until the extension of connubium to the plebs the Roman people (the people of 
Mars) was composed of nobles alone. To this people of nobles King Tullus, 
beginning with the case of Horatius, granted the right of persons condemned for 
crime by the duumvirs or the quaestors to appeal to the entire order. The orders 
alone were the heroic peoples, and the plebs were accessions to these peoples 
(as later the provinces were accessions to the conquering nations, as Grotius 
pointed out) and are in fact the "other people," as Telemachus called his 
plebeians in the assembly we mentioned above. And hence, by virtue of an 
invincible metaphysical criticism of these founders of nations, we are able to up- 
root the error which asserts that such a mass of base-born laborers, held as slaves, 
had the right, from the time of Romulus, to elect their kings and have their 


choice ratified by the fathers. This must be an anachronism of later times when 
the plebs had a part in the city and shared in the creating of consuls (which 
was after the extension of connubium to the plebs by the fathers), dated back 
three hundred years to the interregnum of Romulus. 

663 Taking the word people in the sense of recent times and applying 
it to the earliest times of the world of the cities (because of the inability of 
philosophers and philologians alike to imagine such severe aristocracies) has led 
to misunderstandings of the words king and liberty as well. As a result, everyone 
has believed that the Roman kingdom was monarchic and that the liberty or- 
dained by Jumus Brutus was popular. Jean Bodin, however, though he too falls 
into the common vulgar error of all preceding political theorists that monarchies 
came first, then tyrannies, then popular commonwealths and finally aristocracies 
(what distortions of human ideas can be and are made when true principles are 
lacking 1 ), nevertheless, observing the effects of an aristocratic commonwealth 
in the supposedly popular liberty of ancient Rome, props up his system by dis- 
tinguishing the form of a government from its administration and asserting that 
that of ancient Rome was popular in form but aristocratically administered. For 
all that, since the facts turned out otherwise and even with this prop his political 
machinery would not stand, he was finally constrained by the force of the truth 
to confess with gross inconsistency that in ancient times the Roman common- 
wealth was aristocratic in form as well as in administration. 

664 All this is confirmed by Livy, who, in his account of the setting up of 
two annual consuls by Junius Brutus, openly states and avows that there was no 
change in the form of government. And indeed how could a wise Brutus have 
done otherwise than restore the state to its pristine condition from the corruption 
into which it had fallen' By the institution of two annual consuls, says Livy [II, 
i J, nthtl qtticquam dc rcgia potestate deminutum, "no diminution was made in 
the royal power"; for the consuls emerged as two aristocratic annual kings, as in- 
deed Cicero in his Laws calls them reges annuos (of the same sort as the kings' for 
life at Sparta, which was beyond question an aristocratic commonwealth). And 
the consuls, as everyone knows, were subject to recall during their period oi: office 
(just as the kings of Sparta were subject to correction by the ephors) and at 
the end of their year's reign could be put on trial (as Spartan kings were con- 
demned to death by the ephors). This one passage of Livy shows both that the 
Roman kingdom was aristocratic and that the liberty ordained by Brutus was 
not popular (the freedom of the people from their lords) but aristocratic (the 
freedom of the lords from the Tarquin tyrants). Brutus would certainly not 
have been able to accomplish this had it not been for the affair of the Roman 
Lucretia, which, being offered him, he turned to advantage; for this occasion 
was clothed with all the sublime circumstances necessary to arouse the plebs 
against the tyrant Tarquinius, who had so badly handled the nobility that 
Brutus found it necessary to reconstruct the senate, depleted as it was by the 
execution of so many senators by [Tarquinius] Superbus. In doing this he 


achieved, by prudent consideration, two public advantages: He strengthened 
the order of the nobles, which was declining; and he won the favor of the 
plebs, for from their body he had to choose many, and perhaps he chose the 
boldest, who would otherwise have opposed the reorganization of the nobility. 
These he caused to enter the order of the nobility, and thus he composed the 
city, the whole of which was at that time divided inter patres et plebem, "be- 
tween fathers and plebs." 

665 If the precurrencc of so many varied and diverse causes as we have 
studied from the age of Saturn onward, if the succession of so many varied and 
diverse effects as Bodin observes in the ancient Roman commonwealth, and if 
the perpetual and continuous influence of these causes on these effects as set 
forth by Livy, are not sufficient to demonstrate that the Roman kingdom was 
aristocratic and that the liberty ordained by Brutus was the liberty of the 
aristocracy, then we must say that the Romans, a rough and barbarous people, 
had a privilege from God withheld from the Greeks, an acute and highly 
civilized people, who, according to Thucydides, knew nothing of their own 
antiquities down to the Peioponnesian war, the most illustrious time of Greece 
as we observed above in the [Notes on the] Chronological Table [101], There 
too we showed that the same was true of the Romans down to the second 
Carthaginian war, from which Livy professes to write the history of Rome with 
more assurance, while yet confessing ignorance of three circumstances, the most 
important in the history [of that war], which we also observed there [117]. 
But, even if we concede such a privilege to the Romans, what survives is still 
but an obscure memory, a confused imagination, and so reason cannot reject 
the conclusions we have drawn concerning these Roman antiquities. 



666 The study of the heroic age of the early world which we have here 
been making leads us perforce to reflect on the heroism of the first peoples. This 
heroism, by the axioms which we set forth above [196-197] and which have 
their application here, and by the principles herein established for heroic politics, 
was a far different thing from what philosophers have hitherto imagined as a 
consequence of the matchless wisdom of the ancients, misled by the philologians 
with respect to those three undefined words, people, king and liberty, above 
referred to. For they have taken the heroic peoples as also including the 
plebeians; they have taken the kings as monarchs; and they have taken the 
liberty as popular. On the other hand, they have applied to these matters three 


ideas proper to their own refined and learned minds: the first, that of a justice 
reasoned on maxims of Socratic morals; the second, that of a glory which is the 
fame of benefits done to the human race; and the third, the desire for im- 
mortality. By following these errors and applying these ideas, they have believed 
that the kings or other great personages of ancient times consecrated them- 
selves and their families (as well as their entire patrimonies and substance) to 
bring happiness to the poor, who are always the majority in any city or nation. 
667 Yet concerning Achilles, the greatest of the Greek heroes, Homer 
tells us of three of his qualities which were in complete contrast with the 
three ideas of the philosophers. As regards justice, in speaking with Hector, who 
proposes that the victor in the fight shall bury the vanquished, he forgets their 
equality of rank and the common lot [of men] (two considerations which nat- 
urally induce men to recognize justice) and makes the following savage reply: 
"When have men ever made pacts with lions? And when were wolves and lambs 
ever of one mind?" On the contrary: "If I kill you, I shall drag you naked, bound 
to my chariot, three days around the walls of Troy," as indeed he did, "and finally 
I shall give your body to my hunting dogs to eat." This too he would have done 
if the unhappy father Priam had not himself come to ransom the corpse. And 
as for glory, this same Achilles because of a personal grievance (Agamemnon 
having wrongfully taken his Briseis from him) considers himself badly treated 
by gods and men alike, demands of Jove that he be restored to honor, with- 
draws his men from the allied army and his ships from the fleet, and allows Hec- 
tor to make a slaughter of the Greeks. Thus in defiance of the devotion that a 
man owes his fatherland he insists on avenging a personal offense by the ruin 
of his entire nation. Indeed he is not ashamed to rejoice with Patroclus over 
Hector's slaughter of the Greeks, and, what is much graver, this man who car- 
ries in his heels the fate of Troy expresses the disgraceful wish to Patroclus that 
all, Greeks and Trojans alike, may die in the war, leaving only the two of them 
alive. And as for the third idea, [the desire of immortality,] when Achilles in 
the lower world is asked by Ulysses if he is content there, he answers that he 
would rather be the meanest slave in the land of the living. This is the hero that 
Homer sings of to the Greek peoples as an example of heroic virtue and to whom 
he gives the fixed epithet, blameless! This epithet, if we are to give Homer credit 
for making the delight he gives a means of instruction, as poets are supposed to 
do, can be understood only as meaning a man so arrogant that, as we would say 
nowadays, he will not let a fly pass the end of his nose. What he preaches is thus 
the virtue of punctiliousness, on which the duellists of the returned barbarian 
times based their entire morality, and which gave rise to the proud laws, the 
lofty duties and the vindictive satisfactions of the knights errant of whom the 
romancers sing. 

668 As against this, let us reflect on the oath of eternal enmity which 
Aristotle says the heroes swore against the plebs. Let us reflect further on 
Roman history in the time of Roman virtue, which according to Livy was the 


time of the war against Pyrrhus, a time he acclaims in the phrase nulla aetas 
virtutum jeracior, "there was never an age more productive of virtues." Fol- 
lowing Sallust as quoted in St. Augustine's City of God, we may extend this pe- 
riod from the expulsion of the kings down to the second Carthaginian war. 
What of the heroes of this time? Brutus, who consecrates his house in the per- 
sons of his two sons to the cause of liberty; Scaevola, who terrifies and routs 
the Etruscan king Porsena by plunging his own right hand into the flames for 
its failure to kill him; Manlius called the Imperious, who cuts off the head of 
his own son for a breach of military discipline though it sprang from love of 
glory and valor and issued in victory; men like Curtius, who throws himself, 
mounted and armed, into the fatal abyss; like the Decii who, father and son, 
sacrifice themselves to save their army; like Fabricius and Curius, who refuse 
the Samnite gold and the shares of his kingdom offered them by Pyrrhus; like 
Atiiius Regulus, who returns to a certain and most cruel death at Carthage 
to preserve the sanctity of the Roman oath what did any of them do for the 
poor and unhappy Roman plebs? Assuredly they did but increase their bur- 
dens by war, plunge them deeper in the sea of usury, in order to bury them to 
a greater depth in the private prisons of the nobles, where they were beaten with 
rods on their bare backs like abject slaves. And if anyone in this period of 
Roman virtue attempted to relieve the lot of the plebs with some sort of agrarian 
or grain law, he was accused of treason and sent to his death. Such was the fate, 
to take only one example, of Manlius Capitolinus, though he had saved the 
capitol from being burned by the ferocious Senonic Gauls. Likewise in Sparta 
(the city of the heroes of Greece, as Rome was the city of the heroes of the world), 
the magnanimous king Agis, because of his attempt to relieve the poor Lace- 
daemonian plebs, oppressed by the usury of the nobles, by a law wiping out 
debts, and to aid them by another giving them testamentary rights, was strangled 
by order of the ephors, as before noted. As the valorous Agis was the Manlius 
Capitolinus of Sparta, so Manlius Capitolinus was the Agis of Rome, and, on 
the simple suspicion of being somewhat mindful of the poor oppressed Roman 
plebs, he was thrown from the Tarpeian rock. So that precisely because the 
nobles of the first peoples considered themselves heroes and of a nature superior 
to that of their plebeians, as has been fully shown above, they were capable of 
such misgovernment of the poor masses of the nations. For certainly Roman 
history will puzzle any intelligent reader who tries to find in it any evidence of 
Roman virtue where there was so much arrogance, or of moderation in the 
midst of such avarice, or of justice or mercy where so much inequality and 
cruelty prevailed. 

669 The only principles that can solve the enigma are of necessity the 



670 In consequence of the savage education of the giants which we dis- 
cussed above, the [heroic] education of the young was severe, harsh and cruel, 
as in the case of the unlettered Lacedaemonians, who were the heroes of Greece. 
These people, in order to teach their sons to fear neither pain nor death, would 
beat them within an inch of their lives in the temple of Diana, so that they often 
fell dead in agonies of pain beneath thir fathers' blows. This cyclopean paternal 
authority survived among both Greeks and Romans, permitting them to kill 
their innocent new-born babes. Whereas the delight we now take in our young 
children reveals all the tenderness of our natures. 


671 Wives were bought with heroic dowries, a usage which survived as 
a solemnity in the nuptials of the Roman priests, which were contracted 
coemptione et Jarre, "by mutual [mock] sale and spelt" [-bread offering]. 
(This was also the custom among the ancient Germans, according to Tacitus, 
and we may therefore assume the same of all the earliest barbarous peoples.) 
Wives were maintained as a necessity of nature for the procreation of children. 
In other respects they were treated as slaves, as is [still] the custom of nations 
in many parts of our [old] world and almost everywhere in the new. When the 
wife brings the dowry, it purchases the liberty of her husband and is a public 
confession on his part of inability to bear the expense of marriage, which is per- 
haps the reason for the many privileges with which the emperors favored 


672 Children acquired and wives saved for the benefit of their husbands 
and fathers. Not, as nowadays, just the contrary. 


673 Games and pleasures were strenuous, such as wrestling and racing 
(whence the Homeric fixed epithet of Achilles, swift-footed); and often danger- 
ous too, such as jousting and hunting wild game, to accustom men to steel them- 
selves and to risk and disprize their lives. 


674 Luxury, refinement and ease were quite unknown. 


675 Wars like the ancient heroic ones were all wars of religion, which, 
for the reason we have taken as the first principle of this Science, made them 
always extremely bitter. 



676 Heroic enslavement was also prevalent as a consequence of such wars 
in which the vanquished were regarded as godless men, so that along with civil 
liberty they lost natural liberty as well. Here the axiom above proposed [290] 
finds application: namely, that "natural liberty is fiercer in proportion as property 
attaches more closely to our persons, and civil servitude is clapped on with goods 
of fortune not necessary to life." 


677 Because of all this the commonwealths were by nature aristocratic, 
consisting of those who were naturally strongest. They confined all civil honors 
to the few noble fathers. The public good was the family monarchies preserved 
by the fatherland; for the true fatherland, as we have often said, meant the 
interests of the few fathers, and hence the citizens were naturally patricians. 
And with such natures, customs, commonwealths, orders and laws the heroism 
of the first peoples is realized. This heroism is now by civil nature impossible, 
since the causes of it which we have enumerated have given place to their con- 
traries, which have produced the other two kinds of civil states, free popular 
commonwealths and monarchies; both of these (though the latter more than the 
former) we have shown above to be human. For throughout the whole period 
of Roman popular liberty Cato of Utica alone was reputed a hero, and his reputa- 
tion was that of a spirit of the aristocratic commonwealth whom Pompey's fall 
left as head of the party of the nobility and who, because he could not bear its 
humiliation by Caesar, killed himself. In the monarchies the heroes are those 
who sacrifice themselves for the glory and grandeur of their sovereigns. Where- 
fore we must conclude that such a hero [as devotes himself to justice and the wel- 
fare of mankind (666)] is desired by afflicted peoples, conceived by philosophers 
and imagined by poets, but is not included among the benefits afforded by civil 
nature, as covered by our axiom [260]. 

678 All we have here set forth concerning the heroism of the first peoples 
receives illumination and illustration from the axioms above proposed con- 
cerning Roman heroism [278-281 ], which will be found to apply also to the hero- 
ism of the ancient Athenians at the time when, as Thucydides [i.e. Isocratcs] re- 
lates, they were governed by the stern Areopagites (an aristocratic senate, as 
we have seen), and to the heroism of the Spartans, who were a commonwealth 
of Heraclids or lords, as a thousand proofs above have demonstrated. 





679 This whole divine and heroic history of the theological poets was 
only too unhappily described for us in the fable of Cadmus. For first he slays 
the great serpent (clears the earth of the great ancient forest). Then he sows 
the teeth (a fine metaphor, as noted above, for his ploughing the first fields of 
the world with curved pieces of hard wood, which, before the use of iron was 
discovered, must have served as the teeth of the first ploughs, and teeth they 
continued to be called). He throws a heavy stone (the hard earth which the 
clients or famuli wished to plough for themselves, as above explained). From 
the furrows armed men spring forth (in the heroic contest over the first agrarian 
law aforementioned, the heroes come forth from their estates to assert their 
lordship of them, and unite in arms against the plebs, and they fight not among 
themselves but with the clients that have revolted against them; the furrows 
signifying the orders in which they unite and thereby give form and stability 
to the first cities on the basis of arms, as is all set forth above). And Cadmus is 
changed into a serpent (signifying the origin of the authority of the aristocratic 
senates, for which the ancient Latins would have used the phrase Cadmus 
fundus jactus cst, and the Greeks said Cadmus was changed into Draco, the 
dragon that wrote the laws in blood). All of which is what we above promised 
to make clear: that the fable of Cadmus contained several centuries of poetic 
history, and is a grand example of the inarticulateness with which the still in- 
fant world labored to express itself, which is one of the seven great sources of 
the difficulty of the fables which we shall later enumerate [ist ed., Bk. Ill, Chs. 
9-15]. So easy it was for Cadmus to leave a written record of this history in 
the vulgar characters which he brought to the Greeks from Phoenicia! And 
Desiderius Erasmus, with a thousand absurdities unworthy of the learned man 
who was called the Christian Varro, will have it that [the fable] contains the 
story of the invention of letters by Cadmus. Thus the illustrious history of such 


a great benefit to the nations as the invention of letters, which must have made 
itself known far and wide, is concealed by Cadmus from the human race in 
Greece under the veil of this fable, which remained obscure down to the time 
of Erasmus, in order to keep hidden from the vulgar such a great invention of 
vulgar wisdom that from the vulgar these letters received the name of vulgar 


680 But with admirable brevity and appropriateness Homer tells us the 
same history compressed in the hieroglyph of the scepter bestowed on Agamem- 
non. Vulcan made it for Jove (as Jove, with the first thunderbolts after the 
flood, founded his kingdom over gods and men, which is to say the divine 
kingdoms in the state of the families). Then Jove gave it to Mercury (in the 
form of the caduceus with which Mercury brought the first agrarian law to 
the plebs, whence were born the heroic kingdoms of the first cities). Then 
Mercury gave it to Pelops, Pelops to Thyestes, Thyestes to Atreus, and Atreus 
to Agamemnon (that is, it came down through the line of inheritance of the 
royal house of Argos). 


681 More full and detailed, however, is the history of the world described 
by the same Homer as depicted on the shield of Achilles. 

682 I. At the beginning there could be seen thereon the sky, the earth, 
the sea, the sun, the moon and the stars. This is the epoch of the creation of 
the world. 

683 II. Thereafter were depicted two cities. In the one there were songs, 
hymeneals and nuptials: the epoch of the heroic families composed of children 
born of solemn nuptials. In the other there were no such things to be seen; this 
represented the epoch of the heroic families with their famuli, who contracted 
only natural marriages with none of the solemn rites which surrounded heroic 
nuptials. So that these two cities together represented the state of nature, or of 
the families. It was to these two cities that Eumaeus, the steward of Ulysses, had 
reference when he spoke of the two cities in his fatherland, both ruled by his 
father, in which the citizens had all their goods clearly divided (meaning that 
no part of citizenship was shared in common between them). Hence the city 
without hymeneals is exactly the "other people," as Telemachus in assembly 
calls the plebs of Ithaca. And this is Achilles's meaning in complaining of the 
outrage done him by Agamemnon, who, he says, has treated him as a common 
laborer with no part in the governing. 

684 III. Then, in this same city of the nuptials, the shield showed parlia- 
ments, laws, trials and punishments. This accords with the answer of the Roman 
patricians to the plebs in the heroic contests, asserting that nuptials, property 
rights and priesthoods, on which depended the science of laws and hence of 


judgments, were all their special prerogatives since the auspices which consti- 
tuted the chief solemnity of nuptials were theirs. For this reason vlri t "men" 
(which meant among the Latins the same as heroes among the Greeks), was 
the term applied to husbands in solemn matrimony, magistrates, priests and 
finally judges, as we have said before. This, then, is the epoch of the heroic cities 
which, on the basis of families of the famuli, arose in strictest aristocratic form. 

685 IV. The other city is under armed siege and the two cities prey on 
each other by turns; hence the city without nuptials (the plebs of the heroic 
cities) becomes a separate and hostile city. This affords striking confirmation of 
what we have argued above: that the first foreigners, the first hostes, were 
the plebs of the heroic peoples, against whom, as we have so often quoted 
Aristotle as saying, the heroes swore eternal enmity. Hence the two cities, re- 
garding each other as alien, carried on eternal hostilities against each other with 
their heroic raids, as we have explained above. 

686 V. And lastly there was portrayed on the shield the history of the 
arts of humanity, beginning with the epoch of the families. For, first of all, 
there appeared the father king, ordering with his scepter that the roasted ox 
be divided among the harvesters. Then there were planted vineyards; then 
flocks, shepherds and huts; and last of all, dances were depicted. This picture, 
beautifully and truly following the order of human things, indicated that first 
of all the necessary arts were invented, agriculture with a view first to bread 
and then to wine; then the useful arts, such as herding; then the arts of com- 
fort, like urban architecture; and lastly those of pleasure, represented by the 





687 Passing now to the other branch of the main trunk of poetic meta- 
physics, along which poetic wisdom branches off into physics and thence into 
cosmography and thus into astronomy, whose fruits are chronology and geog- 
raphy, we shall begin this remaining part of our discussion with physics. 

688 The theological poets considered the physics of the world of nations, 
and therefore they first defined Chaos as confusion of human seeds in the period 
of the abominable sharing of women. It was thence that the physicists were 
later moved to conceive the confusion of the universal seeds of nature, and to 
express it they took the word already invented by the poets and hence appropriate. 
[The poetic Chaos] was confused because there was no order of humanity 
in it, and obscure because it lacked the civil light in virtue of which the heroes 
were called incliti, "illustrious." Further they imagined it as Orcus, a misshapen 
monster which devoured all things, because men in this infamous community 
did not have the proper form of men, and were swallowed up by the void be- 
cause through the uncertainty of offspring they left nothing of themselves. This 
[chaos] was later taken by the physicists as the prime matter of natural things, 
which, formless itself, is greedy for forms and devours all forms. The poets 
however gave it also the monstrous form of Pan, the wild god who is the 
divinity of all satyrs inhabiting not the cities but the forests; a character to 
which they reduced the impious vagabonds wandering through the great forest 
of the earth and having the appearance of men but the habits of abominable 
beasts. Afterwards, by forced allegories on which we shall comment later, the 
philosophers, misled by the name pan, "everything," took him as a symbol for 
the formed universe. Scholars have also held that the poets meant first matter 
in the fable of Proteus, with whom Ulysses wrestles in Egypt, Proteus in the 
water and the hero out of it, unable to get a grip on the monster who keeps 


assuming new forms. But the scholars thus made sublime learning out of what 
was doltishness and simplicity on the part of the first men, who (just as children, 
looking in a mirror, will try to seize their own reflections) thought from the 
various modifications of their own shapes and gestures that there must be a man 
in the water, forever changing into different shapes. 

689 At length the sky broke forth in thunder, and Jove thus gave a be- 
ginning to the world of men by arousing in them the impulse which is proper 
to the liberty of the mind, just as from motion, which is proper to bodies as nec- 
essary agents, he began the world of nature. For what seems to be impulse in 
bodies is but insensible motion, as we said above in the Method. From this im- 
pulse came the civil light of which Apollo is the character, by which light was 
discerned the civil beauty with which the heroes were beautiful. And Venus was 
the character of this civil beauty, which the physicists later interpreted as the 
beauty of nature, and even as the whole of formed nature, which is beautifully 
adorned with all sensible forms. 

690 The world of the theological poets was composed of four sacred ele- 
ments: the air whence Jove's bolts came, the water of the perennial springs whose 
divinity is Diana, the fire with which Vulcan cleared the forests, and the tilled 
earth of Cybele or Berecynthia. All four are elements in divine ceremonies: 
auspices, water, fire and spelt. They are watched over by Vesta, who, as we said 
before, is the same as Cybele or Berecynthia. She is crowned with the tilled 
lands protected by hedges and surmounted by the towers of high-placed towns 
(whence the Latin extorns, "exiled," as if externs). This crown encloses all that 
was signified by the or bis terrarum, which is properly the world of men. Thence 
the physicists were later moved to study the four elements of which the world 
of nature is composed. 

691 The same theological poets gave living and sensible and for the most 
part human forms to the elements and to the countless special natures arising 
from them, and thus created many and various divinities, as we have set forth 
above in the Metaphysics. This gave Plato opportunity to intrude his doctrine 
of minds or intelligences: that Jove was the mind of ether, Vulcan of fire, and 
the like. But the theological poets understood so little of these intelligent sub- 
stances that down to Homer's time they did not understand the human mind 
itself insofar as, by dint of reflection, it opposes the senses. On this there are two 
golden passages in the Odyssey in which it is called sacred force or occult vigor, 
which mean the same thing. 




692 But the greatest and most important part of physics is the con- 
templation of the nature of man. We have set forth above in the Poetic Economy 
how the founders of gentile humanity in a certain sense generated and produced 
in themselves the proper human form in its two aspects: that is, how by means 
of frightful religions and terrible paternal powers and sacred ablutions they 
brought forth from their giant bodies the form of our just corporature, and how 
by the discipline of their household economy they brought forth from their 
bestial minds the form of our human mind. Here is a proper place for calling 
attention again to that development. 

693 Now the theological poets in their extremely crude physics saw in 
man these two metaphysical ideas: being and subsisting. Certainly the Latin 
heroes understood being quite grossly in the sense of eating. This must have 
been the first meaning of the verb sum, which later was used in both senses, 
just as nowadays when t>ur peasants want to say that a sick man lives they 
say he still eats. For sum in the sense of being is extremely abstract, transcending 
all particular beings; most pervasive, penetrating all beings; most pure, as not 
being circumscribed by any. They apprehended substance, that which stands 
beneath and sustains, as residing in the heels because a man stands on the base 
of his feet. Hence Achilles carried his fate in his heel, since there stood his fate 
or lot of living or dying. 

694 The composition of the body they reduced to solids and liquids. 
Under the head of solids they included in the first place the viscera or flesh (as 
among the Romans visceratio was the term applied to the distribution by the 
priests to the people of the flesh of sacrificial victims), so that they used the verb 
vcsci for taking nourishment when the food was flesh. Next, bones and joints. 
The latter" were called artus from ars t which to the ancient Latins meant the 
force of the body, whence artitus, "robust of person"; later ars was applied to 
any set of precepts which steadies and directs some faculty of the mind. Then, 
the sinews. When the poets were still mute and spoke by physical things, they 
took the sinews for forces (from one of these sinews, called fides in the sense of 
cord, the force of the gods was called their fides or "faith/' and from this sinew 
or cord or force they later fashioned the lute of Orpheus); and indeed they 
justly placed their forces in the sinews, for it is the sinews that stretch the 
muscles, which is necessary to the exercise of force. And lastly the marrow, in 
which with an equal sense of fitness they placed the essence of life (whence 


medulla was a term applied by the lover to the woman he loved, and medullitus 
was equivalent to our phrase, "with all one's heart," and great love was said 
to consume the marrow). The liquids, on the other hand, they reduced to blood 
alone, for the neural or spermatic substance they called also blood (as is shown 
by the poetic phrase sanguine cretus for "begotten"); here too with a just sense, 
for this substance is the essence of the blood. And again with fine perception 
they regarded the blood as the juice of the fibers of which the flesh is composed; 
hence the Latin expression succiplenus for fleshy: "steeped in good blood." 

695 As for the other part [of our human form], the soul (anima) 9 the 
theological poets placed it in the air (which is also called anima by the Latins) 
and they thought of it as the vehicle of life. (Hence the propriety of the Latin 
phrase anima vivimus and of the poetic locutions Jerri ad vi tales auras, "to be 
born"; ducere vitales auras, "to live"; vitam referri in auras , "to die." And in 
prose Latin: animam ducere, to live; animam trahcre, to be at the point of 
death; animam efflare, emittere, to die.) Whence perhaps the motive of the 
physicists for placing the world soul in the air. And the theological poets, again 
with a just sense, put the course of life in the course of the blood, on whose proper 
flow our life depends. 

696 They must with a sense equally just have felt that the spirit (animus} 
is the vehicle of sensation, for in good Latin the phrase survived animo sentimus. 
And again with a just sense they made spirit (animus) masculine and soul 
(anima) feminine, for spirit acts on soul (it is the igneus vigor of which Vergil 
speaks); so that spirit must have its subject in the nerves and the neural sub- 
stance, and soul must have its in the veins and the blood. Thus the vehicle of the 
spirit is the ether and that of the soul is the air, as accords with the relative 
swiftness of animal spirits and slowness of vital spirits. And as the soul is the 
agent of motion, so the spirit is the agent and therefore the principle of voluntary 
action, as the aforesaid igneus vigor of Vergil. The theological poets sensed as 
much, but without understanding it, and after Homer they used such expres- 
sions as sacred force, occult vigor and unknown god; as the Greeks and Latins, 
when in saying or doing anything they sensed a superior principle within them- 
selves, would say that some god had willed that thing. Such a principle the Latins 
called mens animi, "the mind of the spirit." Thus in a crude fashion they appre- 
hended the lofty truth that ideas come to man from God, which later the nat- 
ural theology of the metaphysicians proved by invincible reasoning against the 
Epicureans who would have it that they spring from the body. 

697 They understood generation in such a way that it is difficult to say 
whether later scholars have been able to express it more appropriately. The way 
in which they understood it is all contained in the word conciperc, for concapcre, 
which expresses the natural activity of physical forms (which must now be sup- 
plemented by the weight of the air, demonstrated in our times) in taking from 
everywhere around them the bodies within their reach, overcoming their re- 
sistance, adapting and assimilating them to their own form. 


698 Decay they expressed very sagaciously in the verb corrumpi, signify- 
ing the breaking down of all the parts composing a body, as opposed to sanum 
for the sound and healthy condition of all the parts in which life consists. They 
must accordingly have thought of disease as bringing on death by corrupting 
the solids of the body. 

699 They reduced all the internal functions of the spirit to three parts of 
the body: the head, the breast and the heart. To the head they assigned all 
cognitive functions; as [among them] these were all imaginative, they located 
memory (memoria being the Latin term for phantasia or "imagination") in the 
head. And in the returned barbarian times fantasia was used for tngegno, and 
an ingenious or witty man was called a fantastic man. Cola di Rienzo is so de- 
scribed by the author of a contemporary biography in barbarous Italian, a record 
of natures and customs like those of the ancient heroes we are discussing, which 
is a great evidence of the recurrence of natures and customs in the course the 
nations run. Imagination, however, is nothing but the springing up again of 
reminiscences, and ingenuity or invention is nothing but the working over of 
what is remembered. Now, since the human mind at the time we are con- 
sidering had not been refined by any art of writing nor spiritualized by any 
practice of reckoning or reasoning, and had not developed its powers of ab- 
straction by the many abstract terms in which languages now abound, as we 
said above in the Method, it exercised all its force in these three excellent faculties 
which came to it from the body. All three appertain to the primary operation of 
the mind whose regulating art is topics, just as the regulating art of the second 
operation of the mind is criticism; and as the latter is the art of judging, so the 
former is the art of inventing, as has been said above in the last Corollaries of 
the Poetic Logic. And since naturally the discovery or invention of things comes 
before criticism of them, it was fitting that the infancy of the world should con- 
cern itself with the first operation of the human mind, for the world then had 
need of all inventions for the necessities and utilities of life, all of which had 
been provided before the philosophers appeared, as we shall fully show in the 
Discovery of the True Homer. With reason, then, did the theological poets call 
Memory the mother of the Muses, which, as we found above, were the arts of 

700 In this connection we must not omit an important observation of 
great relevance to the statement in the Method that we can now scarcely under- 
stand and cannot at all imagine how the first men thought who founded gentile 
humanity. For their minds were so limited to particulars that they regarded 
every change of facial expression as a new face, as we observed above in the 
fable of Proteus, and for every new passion they imagined a new heart, a new 
breast, a new spirit. Hence the poetic plurals, dictated by this nature of human 
things rather than by the requirements of counting; or a, vultus, animi, pec tor a, 
corda, for example, being employed for their singulars. 

701 They made the breast the scat of all the passions, and with a due sense 


of fitness they placed beneath it the two fomenting principles: ( i) the irascible in 
the stomach, because there we feel the spreading of the bile expressed from the 
surrounding biliary vessels by the intensification of the peristaltic action of the 
stomach; and (2) the concupiscible more than anywhere else in the liver, which 
is defined as the blood factory. The poets called these organs the praecordia. 
The Titan [ Prometheus J implanted therein the passions of the other animals, 
taking from each species its ruling passion. In a rough way they understood that 
concupiscence is the mother of all the passions, and that the passions have their 
dwelling in our humors. 

702 The heart they made the seat of all counsel, whence the heroes 
agitabant, versabant, volutabant cordc curas; for, being stupid and insensate, 
they gave no thought to things to be done except when shaken by passions. 
Hence the Latins called wise men cordali and simpletons contrariwise vecordes. 
And their resolutions they called sententiac because they judged as they felt, 
whence heroic judgments were always true in form though often false in sub- 



703 Now, since the minds of the first men of the gentile world took things 
one at a time, being in thu's respect little better than the minds of beasts, for 
which each new sensation cancels the preceding (which is the cause of their 
being unable to compare and reason discursively), therefore their sentences must 
all have been taken as singulars by those who heard them. Hence the sublime 
sentence admired by Dionysius Longinus in the ode of Sappho which Catullus 
later turned into Latin, in which the lover in the presence of his mistress ex- 
presses himself by the simile: llle mi par esse deo videtur, "Like a god he seems 
to me,'* yet falls short of the highest degree of sublimity, because the lover does 
not make the sentence singular to himself, as Terence does when he says: Vitam 
deorum adepti sumus, "We have attained the lite of the gods." This sentiment, 
though proper to him who speaks, still has the air of a common sentiment be- 
cause of the Latin usage of plural for singular in the first person. However, in 
another comedy of the same poet, this sentiment is raised to the highest degree 
of sublimity by being made singular and appropriated to him who expresses it: 
Dens jactus sum, "I am become a god." 

704 On this account abstract sentences are the work of philosophers, be- 
cause they contain universals, and reflections on the passions are the work of 
false and frigid poets. 




705 Finally they reduced the external functions of the spirit to the five 
senses of the body, but senses keen, vivid and strong, for these men were all 
robust imagination with very little or no reason. Evidence of this may be found 
in the terms they used for the senses. 

706 Their word for hearing was audire, as if haurire, for the ears drink 
in the air which has been set in motion by other bodies. Seeing distinctly was 
called cernere oculis (whence perhaps the Italian scernere)^ for the eyes are like 
a sieve and the pupils like two holes, and as from the sieve streams of dust 
pour down to touch the earth, so from the eyes, through the pupils, stream 
forth rays of light to touch the objects which are distinctly seen. (This is the 
visual ray of which the Stoics later treated, and which in our day has been 
happily demonstrated by Descartes.) The general expression for seeing was 
usurpare oculis, as if things seen were actually taken possession of by sight, 
Tangere, "to touch," meant also "to steal,'* for to touch a body is to take some- 
thing away from it, as our more intelligent physicists are just beginning to 
understand. Smelling they called oljacere, as if by smelling odors they created 
them; as indeed later the natural philosophers, with their grave observations, 
found it to be true that the senses make the qualities that are called sensible. 
And lastly they called tasting sapere, a word which properly applies to the 
things which have savor, because they assayed things for the savor proper to 
them. Hence later, by a fine metaphor, they used the term sapientia, "wisdom," 
for the faculty of making those uses of things which they have in nature, not 
those which opinion supposes them to have. 

707 Herein is divine providence to be admired, because, having given us 
the senses for the guarding of our bodies, at a time when men had fallen into 
the state of brutes (in whom the senses are keener than in men), providence saw 
to it that by their brutish nature itself they should have the keenest senses for 
their self-preservation. Later, when they entered the age of reflection, by which 
they could take counsel for the protection of their bodies, the senses were per- 
mitted to become less sharp. Because of all this, the heroic descriptions, as we 
have them in Homer, are so luminously and splendidly clear that all later poets 
have been unable to imitate them, to say nothing of equaling them. 




708 By such heroic natures, furnished with such heroic senses, customs of 
like kind were formed and fixed. Because of their recent gigantic origin, the 
heroes were in the highest degree awkward and wild, such as we have found 
the Patagonians described, very limited in understanding but endowed with 
the vastest imaginations and the most violent passions. Hence they must have 
been boorish, crude, harsh, wild, proud, difficult and obstinate in their resolves, 
and at the same time easily diverted when confronted with new and contrary 
objects; even as we daily observe in our stubborn peasants, who yield to every 
reasonable argument that is put to them, but, because their powers of reflection 
are weak, as soon as the argument which has moved them has left their minds, 
return at once to their original purpose. From this same lack of reflective 
capacity, the heroes were bluff, touchy, magnanimous and generous, as Homer 
portrays Achilles, the greatest of all the Greek heroes. It was with such examples 
of heroic customs in mind that Aristotle made it a precept of the art of poetry 
that the heroes who are taken as protagonists in tragedies should be neither very 
good nor very bad but should exhibit a mixture of great vices and great virtues. 
For that heroism of virtue which realizes its highest idea belongs to philosophy 
and not to poetry; and gallant heroism is a creation of post-Homeric poets who 
either made up fables of a new cast or took the old fables, originally grave and 
severe as becoming the founders of nations, and altered and finally corrupted 
them to suit the growing effeminacy of later times. We have a great proof of 
this and it may well serve as a leading canon of the historical mythology we 
are discussing in the example of Achilles. On account of Bnseis, taken from 
him by Agamemnon, he makes such an outcry as to fill heaven and earth and 
provide matter for the whole Iliad, yet nowhere in that entire epic does he give 
the faintest indication of amorous passion at being deprived of the girl. Similarly 
Menelaus, though on Helen's account he stirs all Greece to war against Troy, 
does not show, throughout that whole long and great war, the slightest sign of 
amorous distress or jealousy of Paris, who has robbed him of her and is enjoying 

709 All that we have remarked in these three corollaries on heroic sen- 
tences, descriptions and customs, belongs properly to the discovery of the true 
Homer which we shall take up in the following book. 




710 As the theological poets had set up as principles in physics the sub- 
stances they imagined to be divine, so they described a cosmography in accord 
with this physics, regarding the world as composed of gods of the sky, of the 
underworld (called by the Latins respectively dti supen and dti inferi), and of 
gods intermediate between earth and sky (who must have been those whom the 
Latins at first called medioxumt}. 

711 The first object of their contemplation in the world was the sky, and 
heavenly things must have been for the Greeks the first mathcmata or sublime 
things and the first thcorcmata or divine objects of contemplation. The contem- 
plation of such things was so called by the Latins from the regions of the sky 
marked off by the augurs for the taking of auspices, which regions they called 
templa coeli; whence in the East the name of the Zoroastrians, which Bochart 
takes to mean "those who contemplate the stars/' for purposes of divination from 
the paths of falling stars at night. 

712 For the poets the first sky was no higher than the summits of the 
mountains, where the giants were halted in their feral wanderings by Jove's 
first thunderbolts. This is the Heaven that reigned on earth and, from this be- 
ginning, conferred great benefits on mankind, as we have fully explained above. 
Hence they must have imagined the sky to be the mountain tops (from whose 
sharpness the Latins applied the term coelum also to the burin, a tool used in 
stone or metal engraving), just as children imagine that mountains are the 
columns that hold up the roof of the sky (a principle of cosmography found in 
the Koran of the Arabs). Two of these columns continued to be called the 
Pillars of Hercules, as we shall see farther on; the original meaning of columen, 
as applied to them, must have been prop or stay; rounded columns were 
introduced later by architecture. It was from such a roof on Olympus, as Thetis 
tells Achilles in Homer, that Jove went with the other gods to feast on [Mt.] 
Atlas. Evidently, as we said above in speaking of the giants, the fable of the 
Titans warring with the gods and piling up lofty mountains, Ossa on Pelion 


and Olympus on Ossa, in order to climb up to heaven and cast out the gods, must 
have been made up after Homer's time, for certainly in the Iliad he always 
speaks of the gods as residing on the summit of Olympus, so that the collapse 
of Olympus alone would have sufficed to cause their downfall. Nor does this 
fable really fit in the Odyssey, where it is found. For in that poem the lower 
world in which Ulysses sees and speaks with the departed heroes is no deeper 
than a ditch; and since the Homer of the Odyssey had such a limited notion of 
the lower world, his idea of heaven must have been equally simple, in con- 
formity with that of the Homer of the Iliad. Consequently the fable is not 
Homer's, as we promised above to demonstrate. 

713 It was in this heaven that the gods first reigned on earth and had 
dealings with the heroes, according to the order of the natural theogony above 
set forth, beginning with Jove. In this heaven justice was dealt out on earth by 
Astraea, crowned with ears of grain and holding a balance; for the first human 
justice was administered by the heroes to men in the first agrarian law above 
mentioned; and men first became aware of weight, then of measure, and only 
very slowly of number, in which reason finally came to rest; so that Pythagoras 
put the essence of the human soul in numbers because he knew of nothing more 
abstracted from bodies. Through this heaven the heroes go galloping on horse- 
back, like Bellerophon on Pegasus; and vohtare equo was Latin for going about 
on horseback. It is in this heaven that Juno whitens the milky way with milk, 
not her own, for she was sterile, but with the milk of the mothers of the families, 
who suckled the legitimate offspring of the heroic nuptials of which Juno was 
the divinity. Over this heaven the gods are carried in carts of the poetic gold or 
grain after which the golden age was named. In this heaven wings were used, 
not for flight nor even to signify quickness of wit, but to signify heroic institu- 
tions, which were all based on the law of the auspices, as we have fully shown 
above. Of this sort are the wings of Hymen (heroic Love), Astraea, the Muses, 
Pegasus, Saturn, Fame, Mercury (who bears them on his heels and at his temples, 
and whose caduceus is likewise winged, for with it he brought down from this 
heaven the first agrarian law to the rebellious plebs in the valleys, as above 
noted), and also the dragon (for the Gorgon also has winged temples, and 
clearly its wings stand neither for wit nor for flight). It is in this heaven that 
Prometheus steals fire from the sun, the fire that the heroes must have kindled 
with flints and set to the thorny underbrush on the mountain tops, dried out by 
the hot suns of summer; whence, as we are faithfully told, the torch of Hymen 
was made of thorns. From this heaven Vulcan is precipitated by a kick of Jove; 
from this heaven Phaethon falls headlong in the chariot of the Sun; and from 
this heaven the apple of discord drops all fables that we have explained above. 
And finally, it is from this heaven that the ancilia or sacred shields of the Romans 
must have fallen. 

714 The first of the deities of the lower world imagined by the the- 
ological poets was that of water, and the first water was that of the perennial 


springs, which they called Styx and by which the gods swore, as noted above; 
on which account, perhaps, Plato supposed that the abyss of waters was in the 
center of the earth. Homer, however, in the contest of the gods, makes Pluto 
fear that Neptune may open the earth with an earthquake and expose the lower 
world to the eyes of men and gods. And i we assumed that the abyss was in 
the deepest entrails of the earth, the earthquakes of Neptune would have quite 
the contrary effect, for the lower world would be submerged and completely 
covered with water. So, as we engaged above to do, we have shown that the 
allegory of Plato is ill-suited to the fable. In view of what we have said, the 
first lower world must not have been any deeper than the source of the springs. 
Its first deity was Diana, of whom poetic history says that she was a triformed 
goddess, for in the heavens she was Diana, on earth the huntress Cynthia and 
companion to her brother Apollo, and in the underworld Proserpine. 

715 With the practice of burial the idea of the underworld was extended, 
and the poets called the grave the underworld (an expression also found in Holy 
Scripture). Thus the lower world was no deeper than a ditch, like that in which 
Ulysses, according to Homer, sees the underworld and the souls of the dead 
heroes; for in this lower world were placed the Elysian fields, wherein, by vir- 
tue of burial, the souls of the dead enjoy eternal peace; and the Elysian fields 
are the happy dwelling place of the Manes or benevolent spirits of the dead. 

716 Later the uftderworld had the depth of a furrow. It is to this under- 
world that Ceres (the same as Proserpine, the seed of the grain) is carried off by 
the god Pluto, to remain there six months and then return to behold the light 
of heaven. By this will be explained later the golden bough with which Aeneas 
descends into the lower world; which was Vergil's continuation of the heroic 
metaphor of the golden apple, which we have already found to be the ears of 

717 Finally the underworld was taken to be the plains and the valleys (as 
opposed to the lofty heaven set on the mountain tops) where the scattered 
vagrants remained in their infamous promiscuity. The god of this underworld 
is Erebus, called the son of Chaos, that is of the confusion of human seeds. He 
is the father of civil night (in which names are obscured), even as the heaven 
is illuminated by the civil light with which the heroes are resplendent. Through 
this underworld runs the river Lethe, the stream of oblivion, for these men 
left no name of themselves to their posterity, whereas the glory of heaven 
eternalizes the names of the illustrious heroes. From this underworld Mercury 
with his rod bearing the agrarian law, as we said above in our account of his 
[poetic] character, recalls the souls from Orcus the all-devouring monster. This 
is the civil history preserved for us by Vergil in the phrase: hac ille animus evocat 
Oreo. That is, he redeems the lives of bestial and lawless men from the feral 
state which swallows up all mankind in that they leave nothing of themselves 
to their posterity. The rod was later used by the mages in the vain belief that it 
had power to bring back the dead. The Roman praetor struck slaves on the 


shoulder with his staff in token of their liberation, as if therewith bringing them 
back from death to life. Sorcerers also used in their witchcraft the rod which 
the wise mages of Persia had used for the divination of the auspices. Where- 
fore divinity was attributed to the rod, and it was held by the nations to be 
divine and capable of performing miracles, as Trogus Pompeius assures us in 
Justin's abridgment of his work. 

718 This is the underworld guarded by Cerberus, the doglike impudence 
of copulating shamelessly in public. Cerberus is three-throated, that is, he has 
an enormous gullet (the three is superlative, as noted several times above), be- 
cause like Orcus he devours everything; and when he comes up on the earth 
the sun goes backwards (for when he enters the heroic cities the civil light of 
the heroes turns again to civil night). 

719 At the bottom of this underworld flows the river Tartarus, and there 
the damned are tormented: Ixion forever turns his wheel, Sisyphus rolls his 
stone, and Tantalus is forever dying of hunger and thirst all fables explained 
above. And the river that causes the torment of thirst is the same river "without 
contentment" which is signified by both Acheron and Phlegethon. Into this 
underworld Tityus and Prometheus were later cast by the ignorance of the 
mythoiogers; but actually it was in heaven that they were chained to the crags, 
to have their entrails devoured by the mountain eagle (the grievous supersti- 
tion of the auspices, as above explained). 

720 The philosophers later found all these fables convenient for the 
meditation and exposition of their moral and metaphysical doctrines. Plato was 
stimulated by them to understand the three divine punishments which only the 
gods can inflict, and not men: namely, oblivion, infamy and the remorse of a 
guilty conscience; and to understand that it is by the via purgativa or purga- 
torial journey of the passions of the spirit which torment mankind (so he inter- 
prets the lower world of the theological poets) that one enters upon the via 
unitiva by which the human mind attains union with God by means of con- 
templation of eternal divine things (which he takes the theological poets to 
have meant by their Elysian fields). 

721 But the theological poets had invented their fables with political mat- 
ters in mind, as they as founders of nations naturally could not help doing, and 
all the gentile founders of peoples descended into the lower world with ideas 
quite different from these moral and metaphysical [ideas of Plato], Orpheus, 
who founded the Greek nation, made the descent; and, disobeying the injunc- 
tion not to turn his head on leaving, he lost his wife Eurydice (signifying his 
return to the infamous sharing of women). Hercules (and every nation tells 
of one as its founder) also descended, for the purpose of liberating Theseus, the 
founder of Athens, who had descended to bring back Proserpine (that is, since 
as we have said she is the same as Ceres, to bring back the sown seed in the form 
of ripened grain). But later Vergil, with his profound knowledge of heroic 
antiquities (singing of the political hero in the first six books of his Aeneid and 


of the military hero in the last six), gives us an account of the descent of Aeneas 
more detailed than any of the others. Aeneas has the advice and safe-conduct 
of the Cumaean Sybil (that is, since every gentile nation had a sybil and twelve 
have come down to us by name, his descent was made by divination, which was 
the vulgar wisdom of the gentiles). With the piety of a bloody religion (the 
piety professed by the ancient heroes in the fierceness and ruthlessness of their 
recent bestial origin, as we have shown above) he sacrifices his sodus Misenus 
(by the cruel right which the heroes had over their first socii, as we have set 
forth above). He then enters the ancient forest (such as covered the land every- 
where while it was yet uncultivated), throws the soporific sop to Cerberus and 
puts him to sleep (just as Orpheus had overcome him with the sound of his 
lyre, which we have previously seen by abundant evidence to signify law; and 
just as Hercules had tied him up with the knot with which he had bound 
Antaeus in Greece, that is with the first agrarian law, in accordance with what 
we have said above). (Because of his insatiable hunger, Cerberus was imagined 
as three-throated, that is, as having an enormous gullet, the three standing for the 
superlative as before noted.) Thus Aeneas descends into the underworld (which 
we found was at first no deeper than a furrow), comes before Dis (the god of 
heroic riches, poetic gold or grain, being identical with Pluto the abductor of 
Proserpine or Ceres, the goddess of grain), and presents the golden bough. (Here 
the great poet takes the metaphor of the golden apple, signifying the ears of 
grain, and extends it to the golden bough, signifying the harvest.) When the 
golden bough is torn from its trunk another grows in its place (because there can 
be no second harvest until a year after the first has been gathered). And when 
the gods are well disposed, the bough readily and easily comes off in the hand 
of him who seizes it, but otherwise no strength in the world is sufficient to 
pluck it. (For the grain grows up naturally where God wills it, but where he 
does not will it no human industry can hope to make it grow.) Aeneas then 
proceeds through the underworld to the Elysian fields (for the heroes, having 
settled in the cultivated fields, enjoyed eternal peace in death if they had proper 
burial, as we have set forth above). Here he beholds his ancestors and those who 
are to come after him (for on the religion of burial, called the underworld by 
the poets as already noted, were founded the first genealogies, from which, as 
we have also remarked above, history took its beginning). 

722 The earth was associated by the theological poets with the guarding 
of the boundaries, and hence it was called terra. This heroic origin the Latins 
preserved in the word territorium, which signifies the district within which 
the imperium is exercised. The Latin grammarians erroneously derived ter~ 
ritorium from the terror of the fasces used by the lictors to disperse the crowds 
and make way for the Roman magistrates. But at the time when the word ter- 
ritorium arose there were no great crowds in Rome, for, according to Varro as 
before cited, in two hundred and fifty years of rule she had subdued more than 
twenty peoples without extending her imperium more than twenty miles. In- 


stead the word originated in the fact that the boundaries of the cultivated fields, 
within which the civil powers later arose, were guarded by Vesta with bloody 
rites, as we have seen above when we noted that the Latin Vesta was the same 
as the Greek Cybele or Berecynthia, who wears a crown of towers, that is of 
strongly situated lands. From this crown the so-called or bis terrarum began to 
take form, signifying the world of the nations, later amplified by the cosmog- 
raphers and called orbis mundanus or, in a word, mundus, the world of nature. 
723 The poetic world was divided into three kingdoms or regions: that 
of Jove in heaven, that of Saturn on earth, and the underworld kingdom of 
Pluto, called Dis, god of heroic riches, the first gold or grain, since tilled fields 
make the true wealth of peoples. 

724 Thus the world of the theological poets was formed of four civil 
elements, later taken by the physicists as natural elements, as we have said not 
far above: namely, the element of Jove, the air; that of Vulcan, fire; that of 
Cybele, earth; and that of the underworld Diana, water. For Neptune was late 
in coming into the acquaintance of the poets, because, as we have said above, 
the nations were slow in coming down to the seacoasts. Any sea extending be- 
yond the horizon was called Ocean, and any land it surrounded an island, as 
Homer speaks of the island of Aeolia as surrounded by the Ocean. From such 
an Ocean must have come the horses of Rhesus, which were made pregnant by 
Zephyr, the west wind of Greece as we shall shortly show; and on the shores of 
the same Ocean the horses of Achilles, also begotten by Zephyr, must have been 
born. Later the geographers, observing that the whole earth, like a great island, 
was girt by the sea, called Ocean all the waters by which the land is surrounded. 

725 Finally, beginning with the idea by which every slight slope was 
called mundus (whence the phrases in mundo est, in proclwi cst, for "it is easy"; 
and later everything for the embellishment of a woman came to be called mundus 
muliebris), when they came to understand that the earth and the sky were 
spherical in form, and that from every point of the circumference there is a 
slope towards every other, and that the ocean bathes the land on every shore, 
and that the whole of things is adorned with countless varied and diverse 
sensible forms, the poets called this universe mundus as being that with which, 
by a fine metaphor, nature adorns herself. 





726 This world system, somewhat further developed, lasted down to the 
time of Homer, who always speaks of the gods as settled on Mt. Olympus. We 
have noted that he has Thetis, the mother of Achilles, tell him that the gods had 
gone from Olympus to feast on [Mt.] Atlas. So that in Homer's time the highest 
mountains on the earth were evidently regarded as pillars sustaining the heavens, 
even as Abyla and Calpe on the straits of Gibraltar continued to be called the 
Pillars of Hercules because the hero had taken up the burden of Adas, who had 
grown tired of supporting the heavens on his shoulders. 





727 But as the indefinite force of human minds went on developing, and 
as the contemplation of the heavens required for taking the auspices obliged 
the peoples to study the heavens continually, in the minds of the nations the 
heavens rose ever higher, and with them rose likewise the gods and the heroes. 
And here for the ascertainment of poetic astronomy it may help us to make use 
of three items of philological erudition. The first states that astronomy was 
brought into the world by the Chaldean people; the second, that the Phoenicians 
carried from $he Chaldeans to the Egyptians the use of the quadrant and the 


knowledge of the elevation of the pole; and the third, that the Phoenicians, who 
must have been instructed by the Chaldeans, brought astral theology to the 
Greeks. To these three bits of philological erudition we may add these two 
philosophical truths: first, the civil truth that nations, if not emancipated in 
the extreme of religious liberty (which only comes in the final stages of deca- 
dence), are naturally wary of accepting foreign deities; and second, the physi- 
cal truth that, by an ocular illusion, the planets seem to us larger than the fixed 

728 Having premised these principles, we may now say that among all 
the gentile nations of the East, of Egypt, and of Greece (and we shall see that it 
holds for Latium too), astronomy sprang from uniform vulgar origins, for by a 
uniform allocation the gods were raised to the planets and the heroes were as- 
signed to the constellations, because the planets appear much larger than the 
fixed stars. Hence the Phoenicians found among the Greeks that the gods were 
already prepared to revolve with the planets and the heroes to compose the con- 
stellations, even as later the Greeks found the same to be true among the Latins. 
And from these examples it is safe to say that the Phoenicians found the same 
readiness among the Egyptians as among the Greeks. In this way the heroes 
and the hierogiylphs signifying their institutions or their coats-of-arms, and a 
goodly number of the major gods, were raised to the heavens and put in readiness 
for learned astronomy to give to the hitherto nameless heavenly bodies to their 
matter, as it were the form of stars or constellations on the one hand, or of 
wandering planets on the other. 

729 Thus, beginning with vulgar astronomy, the first peoples wrote in 
the skies the history of their gods and their heroes. Thence there remained this 
eternal property, that the memories of men full of divinity or of heroism are 
matter worthy of history, in the one case because of works of genius and of eso- 
teric wisdom, in the other because of works of valor and of vulgar wisdom. 
And poetic history gave the learned astronomers occasions for depicting the 
heroes and the heroic hieroglyphs in the sky with one group of stars rather than 
another, and in one part of the sky rather than another, and for placing in one 
planet rather than another the major gods by whose names the planets have since 
been called. 

730 To speak somewhat more at length of the planets than of the con- 
stellations: Certainly Diana, goddess of the chastity preserved in nuptial rela- 
tions, who lies all quiet in the night with the sleeping Endymion, was attached to 
the moon, the giver of nocturnal light. Venus, goddess of civil beauty, was at- 
tached to the gayest and brightest of all the planets. Mercury, the divine herald, 
clothed in civil light, with all the wings (aristocratic hieroglyphs) with which 
he is adorned (as he bears the agrarian law to the mutinous clients), is lodged in a 
planet which is so obscured by the rays of the sun as to be rarely visible. Apollo, 
god of that same civil light (which gave the epithet incliti to the heroes), is 
placed in the sun, the source of natural light. Bloody Mars dwells in a star of the 


like hue. Jove, king and father of men and gods, is placed above all the rest, but 
beneath Saturn, who, since he is the father both of Jove and of Time, has a 
longer annual course than all the other planets. His wings ill become him if, by 
a forced allegory, they are taken to mean the swiftness of time, for he runs his 
year more slowly than any other planet; but he took them to heaven along 
with his scythe, the latter signifying the reaping not of men's lives but of grain, 
by the harvests of which the heroes counted the years, and the wings signifying 
that the cultivated fields were the property of the heroes. Finally the planets 
or wanderers, with the chariots of gold (that is of grain) with which they went 
about in heaven when it was on earth, now revolve in their appointed orbits. 

731 In view of all that has here been set forth, it must be affirmed that the 
predominating influences which the stars and planets are supposed to have over 
sublunar bodies, have been attributed to them from those which the gods and 
heroes exercised when they were on earth. So little do they depend on natural 




732 The theological poets gave beginnings to chronology in conformity 
with their astronomy. For that same Saturn, who was so called by the Latins 
from salt, "sown" [fields], and who was called Chronos or Time by the Greeks, 
gives us to understand that the first nations (all composed of farmers) began 
to count their years by their harvests of grain (the sole or at least the chief thing 
for which the peasants labored all year). And since they were at first mute, they 
must have held as many ears or straws and made as many reaping motions as the 
number of years they meant to signify. Thus in Vergil (as learned as ever man 
was in heroic antiquities) we find two expressions [407]: the first infelicitous 
and, by supreme imitative art, infehcitously contorted, to express the infelicity 
of the first ages in expressing themselves: Post aliquot mca rcgna videns mirabor 
aristas, meaning simply post aliquot annos. The second has somewhat more 
clarity: Tcrtia messis erat. And indeed even nowadays the peasants of Tuscany, 
the nation most highly regarded for its speech in all Italy, instead of saying 
"three years," for example, say "we have harvested three times." The Romans 
preserved this heroic history of the poetic year signified by the harvest, in using 
the name annona for the management of the stores, particularly of grain, 

733 Accordingly Hercules has come down to us as the founder of the 
Olympiads, the celebrated time-divisions of the Greeks (from whom we get all 
we know of gentile antiquities), for it was he who set fire to the forests in order 
to prepare for sowing the lands whereon were gathered the harvests by which 
the years were reckoned. The games must have been instituted by the Nemeans 
in celebration of the hero's victory over the Nemean fire-breathing lion, which 
we have interpreted above as the great forest of the earth, to which, apprehended 
under the idea of a very powerful animal, they gave the name lion, because so 
much labor was required to tame it. Later the name was applied to the most 


powerful of animals, as set forth above in the Origins of Family Coats-of-Arms 
[540], and the astronomers assigned to the Lion a house in the zodiac, next 
to that of Astraea, crowned with ears of grain. This is why in the circuses 
images of lions were often shown, and images of the sun; it is also the reason for 
the metae with eggs on top, which must originally have been mctac of grain 
and the clearings or deforested eyes of the giants, as set forth above. The 
astronomers later took the egg as signifying the ellipse described by the sun in 
its annual path through the ecliptic; a meaning that Manetho might more 
fittingly have given to the egg which Knef holds in his mouth, instead of 
interpreting it as signifying the generation of the universe. 

734 The natural theogony above set forth enables us to determine the 
successive epochs of the age of the gods, which correspond to certain first 
necessities or utilities of the human race, which everywhere had its beginnings 
in religion. The age of the gods must have lasted at least nine hundred years 
from the appearance of the various Joves among the gentile nations, which is to 
say from the time when the heavens began to thunder after the universal flood. 
And the twelve major gods, beginning with Jove, successively imagined within 
this age, serve to divide it into twelve smaller epochs and thus give some certainty 
to the chronology of poetic history. By way of example, Deucalion, whom 
fabulous history places immediately after the flood and the giants, and who 
with his wife Pyrrha founds the families by means of matrimony, is born of 
Greek imaginations in the epoch of Juno, goddess of solemn nuptials. Hellen, 
who founds the Greek language and, through his three sons, divides it into three 
dialects, is born in the epoch of Apollo, god of song, in whose time poetic 
speech in verse must have begun. Hercules, who performs the great labor of 
slaying the Hydra or the Nemean lion (reducing the land to fields for sowing), 
and who brings back from Hesperia the golden apples (that is, the harvests, an 
enterprise worthy of history; not pomegranates, an errand for a parasite), dis- 
tinguished himself in the epoch of Saturn, god of the sown fields. Likewise 
Perseus must have achieved his fame in the epoch of Minerva when the civil 
powers were already in existence, since his shield bears the head of Medusa, as 
does that of Minerva. And finally, Orpheus must have been born after the epoch 
of Mercury, for by singing to the Greek beasts the force of the gods in the aus- 
pices, the science of which belonged to the heroes, he reestablished the heroic na- 
tions of Greece and gave the heroic age its name, for in that age these heroic con- 
tests took place. Hence at the same time with Orpheus there flourish such other 
heroic poets as Linus, Amphion and Musaeus. Amphion uses stones (in the 
sense in which the Latin word for stone, lapis, meant a lout, and signifying 
therefore the simple-minded plebeians) to erect the walls of Thebes three hun- 
dred years after its founding by Cadmus; exactly as, three hundred years after 
the founding of Rome, Appius, the grandson of the decemvir, as before noted, 
by singing to the Roman plebs which agitabat connubia more jerarum (prac- 
ticed marriages like those of the beasts of Orpheus) of the force of the gods in 


the auspices (the science of which belonged to the nobles) reduces them to 
obedience and establishes the heroic Roman state. 

735 Furthermore we must here take note of four kinds of anachronisms 
coming under the familiar general head of placing times too early or too late. 
The first is that of times [for our knowledge] empty of facts which must really 
have been full of them. Thus the age of the gods, in which we have found almost 
all the origins of civil human affairs, passes with the learned Varro for the "ob- 
scure time." The second is that of times full of facts which must have been 
empty of them. Thus, under the false belief that the fables were invented by the 
heroic poets, especially by Homer, the age of the heroes, which runs for two 
hundred years, is filled with all the facts belonging to the age of the gods, and 
these facts should be put back into the age to which they belong. The third is 
that of uniting times which should be divided, lest, for example, Greece should 
seem to have passed from a state of wild beasts to the splendor of the Trojan 
war within the single life-span of Orpheus, which is the chronological mon- 
strosity to which we called attention in the Notes on the Chronological Table. 
The fourth and last is that of dividing times which should be united. By such 
an anachronism the Greek colonies are brought into Sicily and Italy more than 
three hundred years after the wanderings of the heroes, whereas they were 
brought there in the course and as the result of the wanderings of these same 





736 In virtue of the aforesaid natural theogony which has given us our 
rational poetic chronology, and taking into consideration the kinds of anachro- 
nisms noted in poetic history, now, in order to determine the beginnings of uni- 
versal history, which must precede the monarchy of Ninus from which it [com- 
monly] takes its start, we set up this chronological canon: that from the dis- 
persion of fallen mankind through the great forest of the earth, beginning in 
Mesopotamia (according to our reasonable postulate in the Axioms [298, 301]), 
a span of only a hundred years of feral wandering was consumed by the im- 
pious [part of the] race of Shem in East Asia, and one of two hundred years by 
the other two races of Ham and Japheth in the rest of the world. At the end of 
that time, under the religion of Jove (and the many Joves scattered through the 
first gentile nations gave us evidence above that the flood was universal), the 


princes of the nations began to settle down, each in the land where fortune had 
placed him. Then ensued the nine hundred years of the age of the gods. Towards 
the end of that age the nations (which had all been founded inland because they 
had been dispersed through the world in search of food and [fresh] water, which 
are not found on the seaboard) must have come down to the coasts. Hence 
there arose in the minds of the Greeks the idea of Neptune, whom we found to 
be the last of the twelve major divinities. In like fashion, among the Latins, nine 
hundred years elapsed between the age of Saturn, the golden age of Latium, and 
the descent of Ancus Marcius to the coast to take Ostia. After this came the two 
hundred years which the Greeks assign to the heroic age, beginning with the 
raids of King Minos, continuing with Jason's naval expedition to Pontus and 
later with the Trojan war, and ending with the wanderings of the heroes and 
the return of Ulysses to Ithaca. Thus Tyre, capital of Phoenicia, must have been 
brought from inland to the shore, and thence to an island near by in the 
Phoenician sea, more than a thousand years after the flood. And inasmuch as 
before the Greek heroic age Tyre was already a famous city both for navigation 
and for its colonies scattered through the Mediterranean and even on the 
Ocean, it is clearly proved that the beginning of the entire human race was in the 
East, and that first the feral wanderings through the inland parts of the world, 
then the heroic law by land and sea, and finally the maritime traffic of the 
Phoenicians scattered the first nations through the remaining parts of the world. 
These principles of the commigration of the peoples (as we set forth in an 
axiom [299]) seem more reasonable than those imagined by Wolfgang Latius. 

737 Now, in virtue of the uniform course run by all the nations, which 
has been proved above by the uniformity of the gods raised to the stars, as 
brought by the Phoenicians to Egypt and Greece from the East, we must infer 
that the reign of the Chaldeans in the East covered a like period of time 
[noo years], from Zoroaster to Ninus, who founded there the first monarchy 
in the world, that of Assyria; and correspondingly [in Egypt] from Hermes 
Trismegistus to Sesostris, the Ramses of Tacitus, who also founded there a great 
monarchy. And since these were both inland nations, they must have passed 
through the successive stages of divine and heroic regimes and then of popular 
liberty in order to reach that of monarchy, which is the last form of human 
government, if the Egyptian division of the three ages of the world that had 
elapsed before them is to stand. For, as we shall show later, monarchy cannot 
arise save as a result of the unchecked liberty of the peoples, to which the opti- 
mates subject their power in the course of civil wars. When this authority is 
thus divided into minimal parts among the peoples, the whole of it is easily 
taken over by those who, coming forward as partisans of popular liberty, emerge 
finally as monarchs. Phoenicia, however, as a maritime nation enriched by its 
commerce, remained in the stage of popular liberty, which is the first form of 
human government. 

738 Thus purely by understanding, without benefit of memory, which 


has nothing to go on where facts are not supplied by the senses, we seem to 
have filled in the beginnings of universal history both in ancient Egypt and 
in the East, which is more ancient than Egypt; and further, within the East, the 
beginnings of the Assyrian monarchy. For hitherto this monarchy, for lack of 
its many and varied antecedent causes, which must have been previously at 
work in order to produce a monarchy, which is the last of the three forms of 
civil government, has appeared in history as a sudden birth, as a frog is born 
of a summer shower. 

739 In this way chronology has certainty lent to its successive periods by 
the progress of customs and deeds through which the human race must have 
marched. For, by an axiom above stated [314], chronology has here begun 
her doctrine where her subject matter began: that is, with Chronos or Saturn 
(after whom time was called chronos among the Greeks), the reckoner of the 
years by the harvests; with Urania, watcher of the skies for the purpose of taking 
the auspices; and with Zoroaster, contemplator of the stars in order to give his 
oracles from the paths of falling stars. (For such were the first mathemata and 
the first thcorcmata, the first sublime or divine things contemplated and observed 
by the nations, as we have said above.) Later, when Saturn ascended to the 
seventh sphere, Urania became the contemplator of the stars and planets, and 
the Chaldaeans, with the advantage of their immense open plains, became 
astronomers and astrologers, measuring the movements and observing the 
aspects of the heavenly bodies and imagining their influences on so-called sub- 
lunar bodies, and even, though vainly, on the free wills of men. This science 
preserved the first names that had been given to it in full propriety: astronomy, 
the science of the laws of the stars, and astrology, the science of the speech of the 
stars. Both names signified divination, even as from the aforesaid theorems came 
the term theology for the science of the language of the gods in their oracles, 
auspices and auguries. Thence finally mathematics descended to measure the 
earth, the measurements of which could not be ascertained save by the already 
demonstrated measurements of the heavens; and the first and principal part 
of mathematics bears witness to this origin in the proper name geometry by 
which it is called. 

740 Those two marvelous geniuses, Joseph Justus Scaliger and Denis 
Petau, with their stupendous erudition, the former in his De cmendatione 
tcmporum and the latter in his De doctrina temporum, failed to begin their doc- 
trine at the beginning of their subject matter. For they began with the astro- 
nomical year, which, as noted above, was unheard of among the nations for a 
thousand years, and in any case could have assured them only of conjunctions 
and oppositions of constellations and planets in the heavens, and not of any 
of the things that had happened here on earth nor of their sequence (in which 
the noble efforts of Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly had been expended in vain). And 
on this account their work has shed little light on the beginnings or on the con- 
tinuation of universal history. 




741 It remains for us now to cleanse the other eye of poetic history, 
namely poetic geography. By that property of human nature included among the 
Axioms [122], that "m describing unknown or distant things, in respect of 
which they either have not had the true idea themselves or wish to explain it 
to others who do not have it, men make use of the semblances of things known 
or near at hand," poetic geography, in all its parts and as a whole, began with 
restricted ideas within the confines of Greece. Then, as the Greeks went abroad 
into the world, it was gradually amplified until it reached the form in which it 
is now described to us. The ancient geographers agree on this truth although 
they were unable to avail themselves of it, for they affirm that the ancient nations, 
emigrating to strange and distant lands, gave their own native names to the 
[new-found] cities, mountains, rivers, hills, straits, isles and promontories. 

742 Within Greece itself, accordingly, lay the original East called Asia 
or India, the West called Europe or Hesperia, the North called Thrace or 
Scythia, and the South called Libya or Mauretania. And these names for the 
regions of the little world of Greece were [later] applied to those of the world 
[at large] in virtue of the correspondence which the Greeks observed between 
the two. We have clear proof of this in the cardinal winds, which retain in their 
geography the names which they must certainly have first had within Greece 
itself. Thus the mares of Rhesus on the shores of the Ocean (a name, as we shall 
presently find, applied to any sea of unobstructed horizon) must have been 
impregnated by Zephyr, the west wind of Greece; and likewise on the shores of 
the Ocean (in the above-noted primary sense) the horses of Achilles must have 
been generated by Zephyr, even as the mares of Erechtheus as Aeneas tells 
Achilles must have been impregnated by Boreas, the north wind of Greece. 
This truth concerning the cardinal winds is confirmed by the immense projcc- 


tion to which the Greek mind extended itself in taking from the mountain on 
which the Homeric gods dwelt and applying to the starry Heaven the name 
Olympus by which it continued to be known. 

743 On these principles, the great peninsula to the east of Greece came 
to be called Asia Minor when the name Asia was extended to that great eastern 
part of the world which has continued to be called Asia without qualification. On 
the other hand, Greece itself, which was to the west of Asia, was called Europe, 
the Europe which Jove, in the form of a bull, abducted. Later the name was ex- 
tended to embrace this other great continent as far as the western ocean. They 
gave the name Hesperia to the western part of Greece, where the evening star 
Hesperus rises in the fourth quarter of the horizon. Later they saw Italy in the 
same quarter but much larger than the Hesperia of Greece, and they called it 
Hesperia Magna. And finally when they reached Spain in the same direction, 
they called it Hesperia Ultima. Conversely the Greeks of Italy must have called 
by the name Ionia that part of Greece lying across the sea to the east of them; 
hence the name Ionian for the sea between the two Greeces [Greece proper 
and Magna Graecia, the Greek part of southern Italy]. Later, because of the 
similarity of position of Greece proper and Asiatic Greece, the inhabitants of 
Greece proper took to calling by the name Ionia the part of Asia Minor to the 
east of them. It seems reasonable that out of the first Ionia Pythagoras must have 
come to Italy from Samos [or Cephallenia], one of the islands ruled by Ulysses, 
and not from the Samos of the second Ionia. 

744 From the Thrace within Greece must have come Mars, who was 
certainly a Greek divinity; and thence too must have come Orpheus, one of the 
first Greek theological poets. 

745 From the Scythia within Greece came Anacharsis, who left the 
Scythian oracles in Greece. These must have been similar to the oracles of 
Zoroaster (which must originally have been an oracular history). Anacharsis has 
been received among the most ancient oracular gods. By imposture, these oracles 
were later translated into dogmas of philosophy. Similarly the Orphica were 
supposed to be verses of Orpheus, though, like the oracles of Zoroaster, they have 
no poetic flavor and give forth too distinct an odor of the Platonic and Pythag- 
orean school. So too from this Scythia [within Greece], by way of the original 
Hyperboreans, the two famous oracles of Delphi and Dodona must have come 
into Greece, as we suspected in the Notes on the Chronological Table. For in 
Scythia, that is among these Hyperboreans of Greece proper, Anacharsis, at- 
tempting to order humanity by Greek laws, was slain by Caduidas his brother. 
So little did he profit by the barbarous philosophy of [which] van Heurn 
[speaks] that he could not devise such laws for them himself! By the same 
reasoning, Abaris must have been a Scythian too, for he is said to have written 
the Scythian oracles, which must have been no other than those of Anacharsis 
just mentioned. And he wrote them in that Scythia in which Idanthyrsus long 
afterwards wrote with those physical objects. Whence we must conclude that 


they were written by an impostor sometime after the introduction of the Greek 
philosophies. Hence the oracles of Anacharsis were accepted by the conceit of 
the scholars as oracles of esoteric wisdom, which have not come down to us. 

746 Zalmoxis, who, according to Herodotus, brought to the Greeks the 
dogma of the immortality of the soul, was a Getan in the same sense in which 
Mars was. 

747 It was likewise from a Greek India that Bacchus must have come in 
triumph from the Indian East (that is, from a Greek land rich in poetic gold). 
He rides triumphant in a golden chariot (a cart of grain). Hence he is also a 
tamer of serpents and tigers, as Hercules is of hydras and lions, as set forth 

748 Certainly the name Morea, preserved by the Peloponnesus down to 
our days, is ample proof that Perseus, certainly a Greek hero, carried out his 
enterprises in the Mauretania within Greece; for the Peloponnesus is in the 
same [geographical] relation to Achaea as Africa is to Europe. Here can be 
seen how little Herodotus understood of his own antiquities (on which account 
indeed Thucydides reproves him); for he relates that the Moors were at one 
time white, as were certainly the Moors of his own Greece, which to this day 
is called White Morea. 

749 It must likewise have been from the pestilence of this Mauretania 
that Aesculapius saVed his island of Cos by his art; for if he had had to save it 
from the pestilence of the people of Morocco he would have had to save it from 
all the pestilences in the world. 

750 It was in this Mauretania that Hercules must have taken on his 
shoulders the burden of the sky that old Atlas was tired of bearing; for the 
name [Atlas] must originally have been used for Mt. Athos, which, on a neck 
of land later cut through by Xerxes, divides Macedonia from Thrace; and here, 
as a matter of fact, between Greece and Thrace, there was also a river called 
Atlas. Later, at the straits of Gibraltar, when it was observed that Mts. Abyla 
and Calpe on the narrows of the sea similarly separate Africa from Europe, it 
was said that there Hercules had fixed the columns which, as we have said 
above, support the heavens, and the name Atlas was applied to the near-by 
mountain in Africa. And in this way we can find some plausibility in the answer 
that Thetis gives her son Achilles in Homer: that she cannot carry his com- 
plaint to Jove because he and the other gods have gone from Olympus to feast on 
Atlas (based on the opinion to which we have before alluded that the gods dwelt 
on the tops of the highest mountains); for if this reply had referred to Mt. Atlas 
in Africa it would have been beyond belief, in view of the fact that Homer him- 
self tells us that Mercury, even with wings, found the greatest difficulty in reach- 
ing the isle of Calypso in the Phoenician sea, much nearer to Greece than the 
kingdom we now call Morocco. 

751 It was likewise from the Greek Hesperia that Hercules must have 


brought the golden apples to Attica; and there too dwelt the Hespcrides (the 
daughters of Atlas) who guarded them. 

752 In like manner the Eridanus, into which Phaethon fell, must have 
been the Danube in Greek Thrace, which flows into the Euxine. Later, when the 
Greeks observed that the Po is the other river in the world which flows from 
west to east like the Danube, they called it the Eridanus, and the mythologists 
thus had it that Phaethon fell in Italy. But it was only the tales of their own 
heroic history, not that of other nations, which the Greeks attached to the 
stars, among which is Eridanus. 

753 Finally, when the Greeks reached the Ocean, they expanded the nar- 
row idea of any sea with an unobstructed prospect (in virtue of which Homer 
said the isle of Aeolia was girt by the Ocean), and along with the idea the name 
Ocean was also extended to signify the sea that girds the whole earth, which 
was conceived as a great island. The power of Neptune was thus immensely en- 
larged, so that from the abyss of the waters, which Plato placed in the very 
bowels of the earth, he could shake it with his great trident. The crude principles 
of this physics have been explained above. 

754 By these principles of geography Homer can be completely vindicated 
against the very grave errors which have been wrongfully imputed to him. 

755 I. The Lotus Eaters of Homer, who ate the bark of a plant called 
lotus, must have been nearer [than in the usual view]. For he says that it was a 
nine days' journey for Ulysses from Malea to the Lotus Eaters; and if the latter, 
as has been held, had dwelt beyond the straits of Gibraltar, it would have been 
not merely difficult but impossible to believe that the journey was made in nine 
days. This error is charged against Homer by Eratosthenes. 

756 II. The Laestrygonians in Homer's time must have been a people of 
Greece, and when he says that they have the longest days he must mean the 
longest in Greece and not in the whole world. This passage led Aratus to locate 
them under the head of Draco. Certainly Thucydides, a serious and precise 
writer, speaks of the Laestrygonians in Sicily, who must have been the most 
northerly people of that island. 

757 III. By the same reasoning, the Cimmerians had the longest nights 
of any people [not of the whole world but only] of Greece, because they were 
situated in its most northerly part. Because of their long nights they were said 
to dwell near the infernal regions. (Their name was later transferred to the re- 
mote inhabitants about the Sea of Azov.) Hence the people of Cumae, since 
they had their dwelling near the grotto of the Sybil which led to the infernal re- 
gions, must have been called Cimmerians because of the supposed similarity of 
location. For it is not to be believed that Ulysses, sent forth by Circe without any 
incantation (inasmuch as Mercury had given him a charm against her spells, as 
we have noted above), in one day could have traveled to the latter-day [and re- 
mote] Cimmerians [of the Sea of Azov] to visit the lower regions, and on the 


same day have made his return to Circeii, now Mr. Circello, not far from 

758 On these same principles of poetic Greek geography it is possible to 
solve many great difficulties in the ancient history of the East, arising from the 
fact that many peoples who must have been situated in the [Near] East itself 
have been taken for very distant peoples, particularly toward the north and 

759 What we have noted of Greek poetic geography is also found to be 
true of the ancient geography of the Latins. Latium must at first have been a 
very small country inasmuch as in two hundred and fifty years under the kings 
Rome subdued a good twenty peoples and yet did not extend her rule more than 
twenty miles, as we have remarked above. Italy was certainly circumscribed by 
Cisalpine Gaul and Magna Graecia. Roman conquests later extended the name 
to its present scope. Similarly the Etruscan [or Tyrrhenian] Sea must have 
been quite small at the time when Horatius Cocles alone withstood all Etruria on 
the bridge. Roman victories later extended it to include [the waters bathing] all 
the lower coast of Italy. 

760 In precisely the same way the original Pontus, to which Jason made 
his naval expedition, must have been the land nearest Europe, from which it is 
divided by the strait called Propontis. This land must have given its name to the 
sea of Pontus. Thence the name was extended to its farther shores in Asia, where 
the kingdom of Mithridates later stood. This same fable [of the Argonauts] 
tells us that Aeetes, father of Medea, was born in Chalcis, a city of Euboea, an 
island within Greece now called Negropont, which must have given its first 
name to what is certainly still called the Black Sea. The original Crete must 
have been an island within the [Greek] archipelago, which contains the laby- 
rinth of islands [the Cyclades] above explained, from which Minos must have 
made his raids on the Athenians. Only later did Crete move out into the Medi- 
terranean, where it still remains. 

761 Now, since we have returned from the Latins to the Greeks, we 
may note that the latter, as they went out over the world, spread everywhere 
(vainglorious men as they were!) the fame of the Trojan war and the wander- 
ings of the heroes, both those of the Trojans such as Antenor, Capys and Aeneas, 
and those of the Greeks such as Menelaus, Diomed and Ulysses. They observed 
scattered through the world a type of nation-founder like their Theban Hercules, 
and so they spread abroad the name of their Hercules, so that Varro was able to 
enumerate a good forty Herculeses among the ancient nations, and affirmed that 
the Latin Hercules had been called the god Fidius. Thus it came about that, 
with a vainglory equalling that of the Egyptians (who said that their Jove 
Ammon was the most ancient Jove in the world and that all the Herculeses of the 
other nations had taken their name from the Egyptian Hercules in accord with 
two axioms set forth above [193, 196] erroneously believing themselves to be 
the oldest nation in the world), the Greeks caused their Hercules to wander 


through all the parts of the earth, freeing it of monsters, but bringing home 
nothing but the glory. 

762 They observed everywhere that there had been a poetic character of 
shepherds speaking in verse, such as their own Arcadian Evander; and so 
Evander came from Arcadia to Latium, and there gave shelter to his compatriot 
Hercules, and took to wife Carmenta, so called from carmtna, "verses." She 
was the Latin inventress of letters, that is of the forms of the so-called articulated 
sounds which are the matter of verses. And finally, in confirmation of all we 
have been saying, the Greeks observed these poetic characters within Latium at 
the same time that, as we have seen above, they found their Curetes scattered 
through Saturnia (ancient Italy), Crete and Asia. 

763 But these Greek words and ideas came to the Latins in extremely 
barbarous times in which the nations were closed to strangers. Livy denies that 
even the famous name of Pythagoras, to say nothing of the man himself, could 
have reached Rome from Croton in the days of Servius Tulhus through the 
many nations on the way, with their diverse languages and customs. To meet 
this very difficulty we have postulated above [306], as a necessary conjecture, 
that there may have been on the shore of Latium a Greek city, later shrouded in 
the mists of antiquity, which taught the Latins their letters. These, as Tacitus 
relates, were at first like the earliest Greek ones, which argues strongly that the 
Latins received their letters from the Greeks of Latium and not from those of 
Magna Graecia and much less from those of Greece proper, with whom they 
had no acquaintance before the war with Tarentum which led into that with 
Pyrrhus. For otherwise the Latins would ha\c used the latest Greek letters and 
would not have retained their original letters which were the ancient Greek ones. 

764 Thus the names of Hercules, Evander and Aeneas came into Latium 
from Greece in virtue of the following customs of nations: 

765 i. Just as in their barbarism they are enamored of their native 
customs, so when they begin to become civilized they take pleasure in foreign 
tongues as well as in foreign wares and fashions. Hence the Latins exchanged 
their god Fidius for the Greek Hercules, and in place of the native oath medius 
fidius they introduced mehercule, cdepol, mecastor. 

766 2. In virtue of that conceit of nations we have so often noted, which 
makes them boast illustrious foreign origins, particularly when the traditions of 
their own barbarous times supply some motive for believing in them, the Latins 
were pleased to disavow Fidius, their true founder, in favor of Hercules, the 
true founder of the Greeks, and likewise to exchange the character of their own 
shepherd poets for Evander of Arcadia. (Similarly, in the returned barbarism, 
Giovanni Villani relates that Fiesole had been founded by Atlas and that a 
Trojan king Priam had reigned in Germany.) 

767 3. When nations observe foreign things which they cannot explain 
with certainty in their native vocabulary, they must of necessity make use of 
foreign terms. 


768 4. Lastly, there is the property of the earliest peoples which was dis- 
cussed above in the Poetic Logic, by which they arc incapable of abstracting 
qualities from subjects and therefore can only designate the qualities by naming 
the subjects to which they belong. We have clear cases of this in Latin. 

769 As the Romans did not know what luxury was until they observed 
it in the Tarentines, they called a perfumed man a Tarentine. As they did not 
know what military stratagems were until they observed them in the Cartha- 
ginians, they called them punicas artes, "Carthaginian arts/* As they did not 
know what pomp was until they observed it in the Capuans, they used the 
phrase supercthum campanicum for pomp and pride. In like fashion, Numa and 
Ancus were called Sabine because the Romans could not otherwise express a 
religiousness such as that for which the Sabines were distinguished. Servius 
Tullius was called Greek because they had no word for astuteness, an idea which 
must have remained unexpressed until they came to know the Greeks of the 
conquered city of which we were just speaking [763 |; and he was also called a 
slave because they could not otherwise express his weakness in yielding bonitary 
ownership of the fields to the plebeians by bringing them the first agrarian law, 
as shown above, on which account, perhaps, the fathers had him slain. For 
astuteness is a property which goes with weakness, and both alike were foreign 
to Roman straightforwardness and valor. For those who affirm that Rome did 
not have within herself heroes worthy of kingship, so that she had to submit to 
the rule of a low-born slave, do a great injustice to the origins of Rome and 
offend overmuch the wisdom of Romulus her founder. Such is the honor done 
him by the critics who have occupied themselves with the writers. It is of a 
piece with the later tribute to the effect that the Romans, having founded a 
powerful empire in Latium and maintained it against all the power of Etruria, 
had to seek like lawless barbarians through Italy, Magna Graecia and Greece 
proper for laws to order their liberty: all to sustain the credit of the fable that 
the Law of the Twelve Tables came to Rome from Athens. 



770 In the light of all our previous discussion, it can now be shown how 
Aeneas came into Italy and founded the Roman nation in Alba, from which the 
Romans draw their origin. Our Greek city on the shore of Latium must have 
been a Greek city from Asia, where Troy was, and must have been unknown 
to the Romans until they extended their conquests from the hinterland down to 
the near-by sea. This they began to do under Ancus Marcius, third of the Roman 


kings. He initiated such conquests with Ostia, the maritime city so close to Rome 
that as the latter afterwards expanded immoderately it made Ostia its port. Thus, 
just as the Romans had received the Latin Arcadians who were fugitives by land, 
so later they took under their protection the Phrygians who were fugitives by 
sea, and by heroic right of war they demolished the city. And thus both Ar- 
cadians and Phrygians, by two anachronisms, the former by that of postdating 
and the latter by that of predating, took refuge in the asylum of Romulus. 

771 For if this is not the way things went, then the origin of Rome from 
Aeneas confounds and baffles any understanding, as we pointed out in the 
Axioms [307]. In order to avoid such bafflement and confusion, the scholars 
from Livy on down have treated that origin as fabulous, failing to consider that, 
as we have said in the Axioms [149], the fables must have had some public 
motive of truth. For Evander is so powerful in Latium that he receives and 
shelters Hercules there some five hundred years before the founding of Rome, 
and Aeneas founds the royal house of Alba, which, under a succession of four- 
teen kings, so waxes in prestige as to become the capital of Latium; and the Ar- 
cadians and Phrygians, after so long a vagabondage, finally repaired to the 
asylum of Romulus! We may well ask how a shepherd folk knowing nothing of 
seafaring and coming from Arcadia, an inland part of Greece, could cross such 
an expanse of water and penetrate into mid-Latium, when Ancus Marcius, third 
king after Romulus, was the first to take a colony down to the near-by seacoast. 
And how they got to Latium, along with the dispersed Phrygians, a good two 
hundred years before the time of which Livy writes when he tells us that not 
even the name of Pythagoras, so celebrated in Magna Graecia, could reach 
Rome from Croton through the many intervening nations of diverse languages 
and customs. And, for that matter, four hundred years before the Tarentines 
had heard of the Romans, who were already a powerful people in Italy. 

772 Nevertheless, as we have often stated in conformity with one of the 
axioms set forth above [149], these vulgar traditions must from the beginning 
have had great public grounds of truth, since an entire nation has so long 
preserved them. What then must we say? We must assume that some Greek 
city had stood on the shore of Latium, just as so many others stood and remained 
afterward on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea. This city must have been con- 
quered by the Romans before the time of the Law of the Twelve Tables, and, 
by the heroic right of such barbarous victories, the Romans must have demol- 
ished it and received the vanquished inhabitants in the quality of heroic socii. 
And in the language of poetic characters these Greeks must have called Ar- 
cadians the vagabonds who wandered by land through the forests, and Phrygians 
those who wandered by sea, just as the Romans described as received into the 
asylum of Romulus the vanquished who surrendered to them and whom they 
took in as laborers under the clienteles established by Romulus when he opened 
the asylum in the clearing for those who came thither as refugees. Out of such 
conquered and surrendered men (whom we may assign to the period between 


the expulsion of the kings and the Law of the Twelve Tables) the Roman 
plebeians must have emerged under the agrarian law of Servius Tullius, who 
had granted them bonitary ownership of the fields. Because this was not to the 
liking of Coriolanus, he sought, as we said above, to reduce [the plebeians to 
their previous condition as] Romulus's laborers. Subsequently, as the Greeks 
broadcast everywhere the tale of the Trojan war and the wanderings of the 
heroes, and particularly in Italy the voyage of Aeneas because in that country 
they had already discovered their Hercules, their Evander and their Curetes (as 
noted above), it thus came about in the course of time that these traditions were 
altered and finally corrupted on the lips of a barbarous people. So, as we say, 
Aeneas became the founder of the Roman people in Latium, though according 
to Bochart he never set foot in Italy, though Strabo says he never left Troy, and 
though Homer, of more weight here, relates that he died in Troy and left his 
kingdom to his descendants. Thus, by two different manifestations of the con- 
ceit of the nations that of the Greeks in making such a stir about the Trojan 
war, and that of the Romans in boasting an illustrious foreign origin the 
Greeks foisted their Aeneas upon the Romans and the latter finally accepted him 
as their founder. 

773 This fable could not have arisen before the time of the war with 
Pyrrhus, for it was only then that the Romans began to find pleasure in Greek 
things. It is a habit we find nations acquiring only after long and extensive deal- 
ings with foreigners. 


774 Now, since the parts of geography are nomenclature and chorog- 
raphy, that is to say the denomination and description of places, principally of 
cities, it remains for us to examine these matters in order to complete our dis- 
cussion of poetic wisdom. 

775 We have seen above that the heroic cities were founded by providence 
in natural strongholds, to which the ancient Latins in their divine age must have 
given the sacred name arae, "altars." They must also have called these strong 
positions arces, "fortresses"; for in the returned barbarian times the seigniories 
were called [in Italian] rocche, from rocce, "steep and precipitous rocks," and 
later castella. In like manner the name arae must have been extended to the 
whole district held by a heroic city, which, as above noted, was called ager when 
considered with reference to the frontiers dividing it from foreigners, and 
territorium when considered with reference to the jurisdiction of the city over 


its citizens. On all this there is a golden passage in Tacitus describing the ara 
maxima of Hercules in Rome, and because this passage gives strong support to 
these principles we shall quote it in full: Igitur a foro boario, ubi aeneum bovis 
simulacrum adspicimus, quia id genus animalium aratro subditur, sulcus desig- 
nandi oppidi captus, ut magnam Herculis aram complccteretur, ara Herculis 
crat * "From the ox market, then, where we see the brazen statue of a bull be- 
cause that is the animal commonly yoked to the plough, a furrow was drawn to 
mark out the town, so as to embrace the great altar of Hercules [and the land 
itself within that furrowed circuit] was the [original] altar of Hercules.'* There 
is another golden passage in Sallust telling of the famous altar of the brothers 
Phiiaeni [Philaenorum Arae] left as a boundary marker between the Cartha- 
ginian and Cyrenaic empires. 

776 All ancient geography is strewn with such altars. To begin with 
Asia, Keller in his Notitia orbis antiqui states that all the cities of Syria had the 
word Aram placed before or after their specific designations, whence Syria 
itself was called Aramea or Aramia. But in Greece Theseus founded the city of 
Athens on the famous altar of the unhappy, properly considering unhappy 
those lawless and impious men who, from the brawling of their infamous com- 
munism, took recourse to the fortified lands of the strong, as we have said above, 
all solitary, weak and needful of all the benefits that the pious had derived from 
their humanity. And thus in Greek the word ara also meant "vow," because on 
these first altars of the gentile world, as we have also set forth above, the first 
victims (called Saturni hostiae, as noted above) the first anathemata (trans- 
lated into Latin as diris devoti) who were the violent and impious men who 
dared to enter the cultivated fields of the strong in pursuit of the weak who had 
fled thither to escape them (whence perhaps the use of campare in the sense of 
saving oneself), were consecrated to Vesta and slain. Hence in Latin supphaum 
meant both punishment and sacrifice, as used by Saiiust among others. To this 
double meaning in Latin there is a close correspondence in Greek, for the word 
ara, which as we have said means "vow," has also the sense of noxa, "the body 
that has done the harm," and also that of dirac, "the Furies"; and precisely such 
were these first devoti, the vowed or devoted men of whom we just spoke (and 
of whom we shall have more to say in Book IV), for they were consecrated to 
the Furies and then sacrificed on these first altars of the gentile world. So the 
word hara, which survived in the sense of "coop" or "pen," must have meant to 
the ancient Latins the victim. From this word, certainly, is derived aruspex, he 
who divines from the entrails of victims slain before the altars. 

777 From what we were saying of the ara maxima of Hercules, it was 
on an altar similar to that of Theseus that Romulus must have founded Rome 
within the asylum opened in the grove; for it remained true among the Latins 
that never was there mention of a lucus or "sacred wood" without allusion to an 

1 Annals XII 24; ara Herculis crat added by Vico, 


altar erected .therein to some divinity. So by telling us that in general the 
asylums were an ancient counsel of founders of cities, vetus urbes condcntium 
consilium, Livy discloses to us the reason why in ancient geography we read of 
so many cities with the name Arae. Whence too we must admit that it was with 
knowledge of this antiquity that Cicero called the Senate ara sociorum, for it was 
to the Senate that the provinces carried their complaints regarding accounting 
against governors that had governed them avariciously, thereby recalling the 
origin of the provinces from these first socii in the world. 

778 We have already shown that the heroic cities in Asia and, as regards 
Europe, in Greece and Italy were called Arae or altars. In Africa, according to 
Sallust, the aforesaid altar of the brothers Philaeni, Arae Philaenorum, remained 
famous. In the north, coming back to Europe, Altars of the Sicilians [Szekelyek 
Retze] is still the term applied to the cities in Transylvania inhabited by an 
ancient Hunnish nation made up of noble farmers and shepherds, which, with 
the Hungarians and the Saxons, compose that province. For Germany, we read 
of an Ara Ubiorum in Tacitus. In Spain ara is still a part of the names of many 
cities. But in the Syrian language the word art means lion; and above, in the 
natural theogony of the twelve major divinities, we showed that from the de- 
fense of their altars the Greeks conceived the idea of Mars, whom they called 
Ares; so that, with the same idea of strength, in the returned barbarian times 
many cities and noble houses charged their arms with lions. This word ara, 
uniform in sound and meaning in so many nations widely separated from each 
other by space, time and customs, must have been the root of the Latin word 
aratrum, plough, the moldboard of which was called urbs. And the Latins must 
also have derived from ara the words arx, "fortress/* and arceo, "to repel," 
whence the phrase ager arcifinius used by writers on the boundaries of fields. 
Hence also the words arma and arcus, "arms" and "bow." For they justly con- 
ceived strength to consist in thrusting back harm and holding it at a distance. 


779 We have shown that poetic wisdom justly deserves two great and 
sovereign tributes. The one, clearly and constantly accorded to it, is that of 
having founded gentile mankind, though the conceit of the nations on the one 
hand and that of the scholars on the other, the former with ideas of an empty 
magnificence and the latter with ideas of an impertinent philosophical wisdom, 
have in effect denied it this honor by their very efforts to affirm it. The other, 
concerning which a vulgar tradition has come down to us, is that the wisdom of 
the ancients made its wise men, by a single inspiration, equally great as philoso- 
phers, lawmakers, captains, historians, orators and poets, on which account it 
has been so greatly sought after. But in fact it made or rather sketched them 
such as we have found them in the fables. For in these, as in embryos or matrices, 
we have discovered the outlines of all esoteric wisdom. And it may be said that 
in the fables the nations have in a rough way and in the language of the human 
senses described the beginnings of this world of sciences, which the specialized 
studies of scholars have since clarified for us by reasoning and generalization. 
From all this we may conclude what we set out to show in this [second] book: 
that the theological poets were the sense and the philosophers the intellect of 
human wisdom. 





780 Although our demonstration in the preceding book that poetic 
wisdom was the vulgar wisdom of the peoples of Greece, who were first theo- 
logical and later heroic poets, should carry as a necessary consequence that the 
wisdom of Homer was not at all different in kind, yet, as Plato left firmly 
fixed the opinion that Homer was endowed with sublime esoteric wisdom (and 
all the other philosophers have followed in his train, with [pseudo-] Plutarch 
foremost, writing an entire book on the matter), we shall here examine particu- 
larly if Homer was ever a philosopher. On this question another complete book 
was written by Dionysius Longinus, which is mentioned by Diogenes Laertius 
in his life of Pyrrho. 



781 Let us concede to Homer what certainly must be granted, that he 
had to conform to the quite vulgar sensibilities and hence the vulgar customs 
of the barbarous Greece of his day, for such vulgar perceptions and vulgar 
customs provide the poets with their proper materials. Let us therefore concede 
to him what he narrates: that the gods are esteemed according to their strength, 
as by his supreme strength Jove attempts to show, in the fable of the great chain, 
that he is the king of men and gods, as we have observed above. On the basis of 
this vulgar opinion he makes it credible that Diomed can wound Venus and 
Mars with the help of Minerva, who, in the contest of the gods, despoils Venus 
and strikes Mars with a rock (and Minerva forsooth was the goddess of philoso- 


phy in vulgar belief, and uses weapons so worthy of the wisdom of Jove!), Let 
us allow him to tell of the inhuman custom (so contrary to what the writers on 
the natural law of nations claim to have been eternally practiced among the na- 
tions) which then prevailed among the barbarous peoples of Greece (who are 
held to have spread humanity through the world): to wit, that of poisoning 
arrows (for Ulysses goes to Ephyra to seek poisonous herbs for this purpose), 
and further, that of denying burial to enemies slain in battle, leaving their un- 
buried bodies instead as a prey to dogs and vultures (on which account the un- 
happy Priam found so costly the ransom of his son's body, though the naked 
corpse of Hector had already been dragged by Achilles's chariot three times 
around the walls of Troy). 

782 Nevertheless, if the purpose of poetry is to tame the ferocity of the 
vulgar whose teachers the poets are, it was not the part of a wise man, versed in 
such fierce sensibilities and customs, to arouse admiration of them in the vulgar 
in order that they should take pleasure in them and be confirmed in them by 
that pleasure. Nor was it the part of a wise man to arouse pleasure in the 
villainous vulgar at the villainies of the gods, to say nothing of the heroes. As 
for example we read of Mars in the midst of the contest calling Minerva a dog-fly, 
and of Minerva punching Diana, and of Agamemnon and Achilles, the latter 
the greatest of the Greek heroes and the former the head of the Greek league, 
and both of them kings, calling each other dogs, as servants in popular comedies 
would scarcely do nowadays. 

783 But what name under Heaven more appropriate than sheer stupidity 
can be given to the wisdom of his captain Agamemnon ? For he has to be com- 
pelled by Achilles to do his duty in restoring Chryseis to Chryses, her father, 
priest of Apollo, the god who, on account of this rape, was decimating the 
Greek army with a cruel pestilence. And then, holding himself offended, Aga- 
memnon thought to regain his honor by an act of justice of a piece with his 
wisdom, by wrongfully stealing Briseis from Achilles, who bore in his person the 
fate of Troy, so that, on his withdrawing in anger with his men and ships, 
Hector might make short work of the Greeks still surviving the pestilence. 
Here is the Homer hitherto considered the architect of Greek policy or civiliza- 
tion, beginning with such an episode the thread with which he weaves the whole 
Iliad t the principal actors of which are such a captain and a hero such as we have 
shown Achilles to be when we spoke of the Heroism of the First Peoples. Here 
is the Homer unrivaled in creating poetic characters, as we shall show him to be 
farther on, of whom the very greatest are so discordant with this civil human 
nature of ours. Yet they are perfectly decorous in relation to the punctilious 
heroic nature, as we have said above. 

784 What are we then to say of his representing his heroes as delighting 
so much in wine, and, whenever they are troubled in spirit, finding all their 
comfort, yes, and above all others the prudent Ulysses, in getting drunk? Fine 
precepts for consolation, most worthy of a philosopher I 


785 Scaliger is indignant at finding almost all his comparisons to be 
taken from beasts and other savage things. But even if we admit that they were 
necessary to Homer in order to make^himself better understood by the wild and 
savage vulgar, nevertheless to attain such success in them for his comparisons 
are incomparable is certainly not characteristic of a mind chastened and 
civilized by any sort of philosophy. Nor could the truculent and savage style in 
which he describes so many, such varied and such bloody battles, so many and 
such extravagantly cruel kinds of butchery as make up all the sublimity of the 
Iliad in particular, have originated in a mind humanized and softened by any 

786 The constancy, moreover, which is developed and fixed by the study 
of the wisdom of the philosophers, could not have depicted gods and heroes of 
such instability. For some, at the slightest suggestion of contrary sentiment, 
however deeply moved or distressed they may be, become quiet and tranquil; 
others, while burning with violent wrath, if they chance to recall some sad 
event, break into bitter tears. (Just so, in the returned barbarism of Italy, at the 
end of which came Dante, the Tuscan Homer, who also sang only of history, we 
read of Cola di Rienzo, whose biography we said above exhibited vividly the 
customs of the Greek heroes as described by Homer, that when he spoke of the 
unhappy Roman state oppressed by the great of that time, both he and his 
hearers broke down in uncontrollable tears.) Others, conversely, when deep in 
grief, if some pleasant diversion offers itself, like the banquet of Alcinous in the 
case of the wise Ulysses, completely forget their troubles and give themselves 
over to hilarity. Others, quiet and calm, at some innocent remark which is not 
to their humor, react with such violence and fly into such a blind rage as to 
threaten the speaker with a frightful death. So it is with Achilles when he re- 
ceives Priam in his tent on the aforementioned occasion when the latter, pro- 
tected by Mercury, has come through the Greek camp by night and all alone in 
order to ransom the body of Hector. Achilles receives him at dinner and, be- 
cause of a little phrase that does not please him and which has fallen inadver- 
tently from the mouth of the unhappy father grieving for such a valorous son, 
flies into a rage. Forgetting the sacred laws of hospitality, unmindful of the 
simple faith in which Priam has come all alone to him because he trusts com- 
pletely in him alone, unmoved by the many great misfortunes of such a king or 
by pity for such a father or by the veneration due to so old a man, heedless of 
the common lot which avails more than anything else to arouse compassion, he 
allows his bestial wrath to reach such a point as to thunder at him that he "will 
cut off his head." The same Achilles, even while impiously determined not to 
forgive a private injury at the hands of Agamemnon (which grave though it 
was could not justly be avenged by the ruin of their fatherland and of their 
entire nation), is pleased he who carries with him the fate of Troy to see all 
the Greeks fall to ruin and suffer miserable defeat at Hector's hands, nor is he 
moved by love of country or by his nation's glory to bring them any aid. He does 


it finally only to satisfy a purely private grief, the slaying of his friend Patroclus 
by Hector. And not even in death is he placated for the loss of his Briseis until 
the unhappy beautiful royal maiden Polyjpa, of the ruined house of the once 
rich and puissant Priam, but now become a miserable slave, has been sacrificed 
before his tomb, and his ashes, thirsting for vengeance, have drunk up the last 
drop of her blood. To say nothing of what is really past understanding: that a 
philosopher's gravity and propriety of thought could have been possessed by a 
man who amused himself by inventing so many fables worthy of old women en- 
tertaining children, as those with which Homer stuffed his other poem, the 

787 Such crude, coarse, wild, savage, volatile, unreasonable or unrea- 
sonably obstinate, frivolous and foolish customs as we set forth in the second 
book in the Corollaries on the Heroic Nature, can pertain only to men who are 
like children in the weakness of their minds, like women in the vigor of their 
imaginations and like violent youths in the turbulence of their passions; whence 
we must deny to Homer any kind of esoteric wisdom. These are the considera- 
tions which first gave rise to the doubts that put us under the necessity of seek- 
ing out the true Homer. 



788 Such was the esoteric wisdom hitherto attributed to Homer; let us 
now examine his origin. Almost all the cities of Greece claimed to be his birth- 
place and there were not lacking those who asserted that he was an Italian 
Greek. To determine his native land Leo Allacci in his De f atria Homeri spends 
much effort in vain. But since there has come down to us no writer more ancient 
than Homer, as Josephus stoutly maintains against the grammarian Apion, and 
since the writers came long after him, we are obliged to apply our metaphysical 
criticism, treating him as the founder of a nation as he is held to be of Greece, and 
to discover the truth, both as to his age and as to his fatherland, from Homer 

789 Certainly, as regards the Homer who was author of the Odyssey, we 
are assured that he must have come from the west of Greece and a little toward 
the south, as evidenced by that golden passage in which Alcinous, king of the 
Phaeacians in what is now Corfu, offers to Ulysses, who is anxious to be on his 
way, a well-fitted ship manned by his vassals. These, he says, are expert mariners 
who could take the hero, if need were, as far as Euboea (now Negropont), 
which, by the report of those whom chance had taken thither, was a land far 


away, a sort of Ultima Thule of the Greeks. This passage shows clearly that the 
Homer of the Odyssey was not the same as the Homer of the Iliad, for Euboea 
was not far from Troy, which was sitqated in Asia near the shore of the Helles- 
pont, on the narrow strait of which there are now two fortresses called the 
Dardanelles, a name recalling to this day its origin from that of Dardania, the 
ancient territory of Troy. And certainly we find in Seneca that there was a 
celebrated debate among the grammarians as to whether the Iliad and the Odys- 
sey were by the same author. 

790 As for the contest among the Greek cities for the honor of claiming 
Homer as citizen, it came about because almost all of them observed in his 
poems words and phrases and dialectical locutions that belonged to their own 

791 What has been said here will serve for the discovery of the true 



792 We find evidence regarding the age of Homer in the following 
passages of his poems. 


793 For the funeral of Patroclus, Achilles causes to be played almost all 
the kinds of games that were later played in the Olympics when Greek civiliza- 
tion was at its height. 


794 The arts of casting in bas-relief and of engraving on metals had 
already been invented, as is shown, among other examples, by the shield of 
Achilles, to which we have referred above. Painting had not yet been invented. 
For casting abstracts the surfaces of things along with some relief, and en- 
graving does the same with some depth; but painting abstracts the surfaces 
absolutely, and this is a labor calling for the greatest ingenuity. Hence neither 
Homer nor Moses ever mentions anything painted, and this is an argument of 
their antiquity. 


795 The delights of the gardens of Alcinous, the magnificence of his 
palace and the sumptuousness of his banquets indicate to us that the Greeks had 
reached the stage of admiring luxury and pomp. 



796 The Phoenicians were already bringing to Greek shores ivory, 
purple, Arabian incense used to perfume the grotto of Venus; further, a linen 
finer than the outer skin of an onion, embroidered garments, and, among the 
gifts of the suitors, one [such garment] for the adornment of Penelope, draped 
on a frame contrived with such delicate springs that they stretched it out in the 
fuller places and drew it in in the slender places. An invention worthy of the 
effeminacy of our day! 

797 The coach of Priam, in which he drives to Achilles, is made of 
cedar wood, and the cave of Calypso is fragrant with its perfumes, which be- 
trays a sensuous refinement that was still foreign to the pleasure of the Romans 
when they were most bent on wasting their substance m luxury in the days of 
Nero and Heliogabalus. 


798 We read of voluptuous baths in the dwelling of Circe. 


799 The youthful servants of the suitors are handsome, graceful and 
blonde-haired, even as the amenity of our present customs would demand. 


800 The men care for their hair like women; this is a reproach brought 
against the effeminate Paris by Hector and Diomed. 


801 It is true that Homer describes his heroes as always eating roast 
meats. This is the simplest and easiest way of cooking them, since it requires 
nothing but live coals. This practice was retained in the case of sacrifices, and 
the Romans used the term prosiicia for the meat of the victims roasted on the 
altars, which was then cut up and divided among the guests. In later times, 
however, it was roasted on spits just like unconsecrated meat. So Achilles on the 
occasion of the dinner with Priam cuts up the lamb and Patroclus then roasts 
it [on a spit], prepares the table and puts bread upon it in the serving baskets; 
for the heroes celebrated no banquets which were not sacrificial in nature, with 
themselves in the character of priests. Among the Latins these survived in the 
epulae, sumptuous banquets given usually by the great, in the epulum, a public 
feast for the people, and in the sacred banquet of which the priests called epulones 
partook. Agamemnon himself, accordingly, kills the two lambs whose sacrifice 
consecrates the terms of the war with Priam. Such was the magnificence at that 
time of an idea we would now associate with a butcher! Only after this stage must 


have come boiled meats, for in addition to fire they require water, a kettle and 
along with it a tripod. Vergil has his heroes eat this kind of meat also, and he 
has them roast meat on spits. Last of all came seasoned foods, which, besides the 
things already mentioned, called also for condiments. Now, to get back to the 
heroic banquets of Homer, though he describes the most delicate food of the 
Greeks as made of flour, cheese and honey, yet two of his similes are drawn from 
fishing. And Ulysses, when pretending to be poor and asking alms of one of the 
suitors, tells him that the gods give to hospitable kings, that is those who are 
charitable to poor wanderers, seas abounding in fish, which are the greatest de- 
light of the table. 


802 Lastly (and what is more to our purpose), Homer seems to have ap- 
peared at a time when heroic law had already decayed in Greece and the period 
of popular liberty had begun, for his heroes contract marriages with foreigners 
and bastards succeed to kingdoms. And so indeed it must have been, for, long 
since, Hercules, stained by the blood of the ugly centaur Nessus, had gone forth 
in madness and died; signifying, as we explained in the second book, the end 
of heroic law. 

803 As therefore with regard to the age of Homer we are unwilling to 
scorn authority altogether, in all these matters gathered and noted from his 
poems themselves (not as much from the Iliad as from the Odyssey, which 
Dionysius Longinus holds was composed in Homer's old age), we find support 
for the opinion of those who place him long after the Trojan war. The time 
runs to the extent of 460 years, or until about the period of Numa. Indeed, we 
believe we are humoring them in not assigning him to a time even nearer our 
own. For they say it was after Numa's time that Psammeticus opened Egypt 
to the Greeks. Yet the Greeks, as appears from numerous passages particularly 
in the Odyssey, had long since opened their own country to commerce with the 
Phoenicians, whose tales no less than their merchandise the Greek peoples had 
come to delight in, just as Europeans do now in those of the Indies. There is 
thus no contradiction between these two facts: on the one hand that Homer 
never saw Egypt, and on the other that he recounts so many things of Egypt and 
Libya, of Phoenicia and Asia, and above all of Italy and Sicily; for these things 
had been related to the Greeks by the Phoenicians. 

804 Yet we do not see how to reconcile so many refined customs with 
the many wild and savage ones which he attributes to his heroes at the same 
time, and particularly in the Iliad. So that, lest barbarous acts be confounded 
with gentle ones ne pladdis coeant immitia we must suppose that the two 
poems were composed and compiled by various hands through successive ages. 

805 Thus, from what we have here said of the fatherland and of the 
age of Homer as he has hitherto been held to be, our doubts take courage for 
the search for the true Homer. 




806 The complete absence of philosophy which we have shown in Homer, 
and our discoveries concerning his fatherland and his age, arouse in us a strong 
suspicion that he may perhaps have been quite simply a man of the people. This 
suspicion is confirmed by Horace's observation in his Art of Poetry concerning 
the desperate difficulty of creating fresh characters or persons of tragedy after 
Homer, on account of which he advises poets to take their characters from 
Homer's poems. Now this grave difficulty must be taken in conjunction with 
the fact that the personages of the New Comedy are all of artificial creation; 
indeed there was an Athenian law requiring the New Comedy to appear on the 
stage with characters entirely fictitious, and the Greeks managed this so suc- 
cessfully that the Latins, for all their pride, despaired of competing, as Quin- 
tilian acknowledged in saying: Cum graecis de comoedia non contendimus, "We 
do not contend with the Greeks in comedy." 

807 To Horace's difficulty we must add two others of wider scope. For 
one thing, how is it that Homer, who came first, was such an inimitable heroic 
poet, while tragedy, which was born later, began with the crudeness familiar 
to everybody and which we shall later describe more in detail? And for another, 
how is it that Homer, who preceded philosophy and the poetic and critical arts, 
was yet the most sublime of all the sublime poets, and that after the invention 
of philosophies and of the arts of poetry and criticism there was no poet who 
could come within a long distance of competing with him? However, putting 
aside our two difficulties, that of Horace combined with what we have said of 
the New Comedy should have spurred scholars like Patrizzi, Scaliger and 
Castelvetro and other valiant masters of the poetic art to investigate the reason 
for the difference. 

808 The reason cannot be found elsewhere than in the origin of poetry, 
as discovered above in the Poetic Wisdom, and consequently in the discovery 
of the poetic characters in which alone consists the essence of poetry itself. For 
the New Comedy portrays our present human customs, on which the Socratic 
philosophy had meditated, and hence, from the latter's general maxims con- 
cerning human morals, the Greek poets, profoundly steeped in that doctrine 
(as was Menander for example, in comparison with whom Terence was called 
even by the Latins "half a Menander"), could create certain luminous examples 
of ideal men, by the light and splendor of which they might awaken the vulgar, 
who are as quick to learn from convincing examples as they are incapable of 


understanding from reasoned maxims. The Old Comedy took arguments or 
subjects from real life and made plays of them just as they were, as the wicked 
Aristophanes once did with the good Socrates, thus bringing on his ruin. But 
tragedy puts on the scene heroic hatred, scorn, wrath and revenge, which spring 
from sublime natures which naturally are the source of sentiments, modes of 
speech and actions in general that are wild, crude and terrible. Such arguments 
are clothed with an air of marvel, and all these matters are in closest conformity 
among themselves and uniform in their subjects. Such works the Greeks could 
produce only in the time of their heroism, at the end of which Homer must have 
come. This is shown by the following metaphysical criticism. The fables, which 
at their birth had come forth direct and proper, reached Homer distorted and 
perverted. As may be seen throughout the Poetic Wisdom above set forth, they 
were all at first true histories, which were gradually altered and corrupted, and 
in their corrupt form finally came down to Homer. Hence he must be assigned 
to the third age of the heroic poets. The first age invented the fables to serve as 
true narratives, the primary and proper meaning of the word mythos, as de- 
fined by the Greeks themselves, being "true narration.'* The second altered and 
corrupted them. The third and last, that of Homer, received them thus cor- 

809 But, to return to our purpose, for the reason assigned by us to this 
effect, Aristotle in his Poetics says that only Homer knew how to invent poetic 
falsehoods. For his poetic characters, which are incomparable for the sublime 
appropriateness which Horace admires in them, were imaginative universals, as 
defined above in the Poetic Metaphysics, to which the peoples of Greece attached 
all the various particulars belonging to each genus. To Achilles, for example, 
who is the subject of the Iliad, they attached all the properties of heroic valor, 
and all the sentiments and customs arising from these natural properties, such as 
those of quick temper, punctiliousness, wrathfulness, implacability, violence, 
the arrogation of all right to might, as they are summed up by Horace in his 
description of this character. To Ulysses, the subject of the Odyssey, they attached 
all the sentiments and customs of heroic wisdom, that is, those of wanness, pa- 
tience, dissimulation, duplicity, deceit, always preserving propriety of speech 
and indifference of action, so that others may of themselves fall into error and 
may be the causes of their own deception. And to these two characters, accord- 
ing to kind, they attached those actions of particular men which were con- 
spicuous enough to arouse and move the still dull and stupid Greeks to note 
them and refer them to their kinds. These two characters, since they had been 
created by an entire nation, could only be conceived as naturally uniform (in 
which uniformity, agreeable to the common sense of an entire nation, alone 
consists the decorum or beauty and charm of a fable); and, since they were 
created by powerful imaginations, they could not be created as anything but 
sublime. Hence derive two eternal properties of poetry: one that poetic sub- 
limity is inseparable from popularity, and the other that peoples who have first 


created heroic characters for themselves will afterwards apprehend human [or 
civilized] customs only in terms of characters made famous by luminous ex- 



810 In view of what we have stated, the following philosophical proofs 
may be assembled. 


811 First of all, the one enumerated above among the Axioms [201], 
which states that men are naturally led to preserve the memories of the orders 
and laws that keep them within their societies. 


812 The truth understood by Castelvetro, that history must have come 
first and then poetry*, for history is a simple statement of the truth but poetry is 
an imitation at a second remove. Yet this scholar, though otherwise most acute, 
failed to make use of this truth to discover the true principles of poetry by com- 
bining it with the other philosophical proof which follows here. 


813 Inasmuch as the poets came certainly before the vulgar historians, 
the first history must have been poetic, 


814 The fables in their origin were true and severe narrations (whence 
mythos, "fable," was defined as vera narratio, as we have frequently noted). But 
because for the most part they were originally monstrous, they were later mis- 
appropriated, then altered, subsequently became improbable, after that obscure, 
then scandalous and finally incredible. These are the seven sources of the dif- 
ficulties of the fables, which can all easily be found throughout the second book. 


815 And, as we have shown in the same book, they were received by 
Homer in this corrupt and distorted form. 



816 The poetic characters, in which the essence of the fables consists, 
were born of the need of a nature incapable of abstracting forms and properties 
from subjects, Consequently they must have been the manner of thinking of 
entire peoples, who had been placed under this natural necessity in the times of 
their greatest barbarism. It is an eternal property of the fables always to magnify 
the ideas of particulars. On this there is a fine passage in Aristotle's Ethics in 
which he remarks that men of limited ideas erect every particular into a maxim. 
The reason must be that the human mind, which is indefinite, being constricted 
by the vigor of the senses, cannot otherwise express its almost divine nature 
than by thus magnifying particulars in imagination. It is perhaps on this account 
that in both the Greek and the Latin poets the images of gods and heroes always 
appear larger than those of men, and that in the returned barbarian times the 
paintings particularly of the Eternal Father, of Jesus Christ and of the Virgin 
Mary are exceedingly large. 


817 Since barbarians lack reflection, which, when ill used, is the mother 
of falsehood, the first heroic Latin poets sang true histories, that is, the Roman 
wars. And in the returned barbarian times, in virtue of this nature of barbarism, 
the Latin poets like Gunther, William of Apulia and others again sang nothing 
but history, and the romancers of the same period thought they were writing 
true histories. Even Boiardo and Ariosto, who came in an age illuminated by 
philosophy, took the subjects of their poems from the history of Bishop Turpin 
of Paris. And in virtue of this same nature of barbarism, which for lack of re- 
flection does not know how to feign (whence it is naturally truthful, open, 
faithful, generous and magnanimous), even Dante, though learned in the loftiest 
esoteric knowledge, filled the scenes of his Comedy with real persons and por- 
trayed real events in the lives of the dead. For that reason he gave the name 
Comedy to his poem, for the Old Comedy of the Greeks, as we have said above, 
portrayed real persons in its plays. In this respect Dante was like the Homer 
of the Iliad, which Dionysius Longinus says is all dramatic or representative, as 
the Odyssey is all narrative, Francesco Petrarca too, though a most learned man, 
yet sang in Latin of the second Carthaginian war, and his Tnonfi, in Tuscan, 
which have a heroic note, are nothing but a collection of histories. And here we 
have a luminous proof of the fact that the first fables were histories. For satire 
spoke ill of persons not only real but well known; tragedy took for its argu- 
ments characters of poetic history; the Old Comedy put into its plots illustrious 
living persons; the New Comedy, born in times of the most lively reflection, 
finally invented characters entirely fictitious (just as in the Italian language the 
New Comedy came in again only with the marvelously learned Cinquecento) : 


and neither among the Greeks nor among the Latins was an entirely fictitious 
character ever the protagonist of a tragedy. Strong confirmation of this is found 
in the popular taste which will not accept musical dramas, the arguments of 
which are always tragic, unless they are taken from history, whereas it will 
tolerate fictitious plots in comedies because, since they deal with private life 
which is not public knowledge, it believes them true. 


818 Since poetic characters are of this nature, their poetic allegories, as 
we have shown above throughout the Poetic Wisdom, must necessarily contain 
historical significations referring only to the earliest times of Greece. 


819 Such histories must naturally have been preserved in the memories 
of the communities of the peoples, in virtue of the first philosophical proof just 
mentioned; for, as the children of the nations, they must have had marvelously 
strong memories. And this was not without divine providence, for up to the 
time of Homer and indeed somewhat afterwards, common script had not yet 
been invented (on the authority of Josephus against Apion, which we have 
already cited several times). In that human indigence, the peoples, who were 
almost all body and almost no reflection, must have been all vivid sensation in 
perceiving particulars, strong imagination in apprehending and magnifying 
them, sharp wit in referring them to their imaginative genera and robust 
memory in retaining them. It is true that these faculties appertain to the mind, 
but they have their roots in the body and draw their strength from it. Hence 
memory is the same as imagination, which for that reason is called memoria 
in Latin. (In Terence, for example, we find memorabile in the sense of "imagi- 
nable," and commonly we find comminisci for "feigning," which is proper to 
the imagination, and thence commentum for a fiction.) Imagination is likewise 
taken for wit or ingenuity. (In the returned barbarian times an ingenious man 
was called imaginative [jantastico] ; so, for example, Cola di Rienzo is described 
by his contemporary biographer.) Memory thus has three different aspects: 
memory when it remembers things, imagination when it alters or imitates them 
and invention when it gives them a new turn or puts them into proper arrange- 
ment and relationship. For these reasons the theological poets called Memory the 
mother of the Muses. 


820 The poets must therefore have been the first historians of the na- 
tions. This is why Castelvetro failed to make use of his dictum for finding the 
true origins of poetry; for he and all others who have discussed the matter (from 
Plato and Aristotle on down) could easily have observed that all gentile histories 


have their beginnings in fables, as we set forth in the Axioms [202] and 
demonstrated in the Poetic Wisdom. 


821 By the very nature of poetry it is impossible for anyone to be at the 
same time a sublime poet and a sublime metaphysician, for metaphysics ab- 
stracts the mind from the senses, and the poetic faculty must submerge the 
whole mind in the senses; metaphysics soars up to universals, and the poetic 
faculty must plunge deep into particulars. 


822 In virtue of the axiom set forth above [213] that he who has not 
the natural gift may by industry succeed in every [other] capacity, but that in 
poetry success by industry is completely denied to him who lacks the natural 
gift the poetic and critical "arts" serve to make minds cultivated but not great. 
For delicacy is a small virtue and greatness naturally disdains all small things. 
Indeed, as a great rushing torrent cannot fail to carry turbid waters and roll 
stones and trunks along in the violence of its course, so his very greatness ac- 
counts for the low expressions we so often find in Homer. 


823 But this does not make Homer any the less the father and prince of 
all sublime poets. 


824 For we have seen that Aristotle regarded the Homeric lies as with- 
out equal, which is equivalent to Horace's opinion that his characters are inimi- 


825 He is celestially sublime in his poetic sentences, which, as we have 
shown in our Corollaries on the Heroic Nature in the second book, must be 
conceived of true passions, or in virtue of a burning imagination must make 
themselves truly felt by us, and they must therefore be individualized in those 
who feel them. Hence maxims of life, as being general, were defined by us as 
sentences of philosophers; and reflections on the passions themselves are the 
work of false and frigid poets. 


826 The poetic comparisons taken from wild and savage things, as we 
observed above, are certainly incomparable in Homer. 



827 The frightfulness of the Homeric battles and deaths, as we also 
noted above, gives to the Iliad all its marvelousness. 


828 But these sentences, comparisons and descriptions, as we also proved 
above, could not have been the natural product of a calm, cultivated and gentle 


829 For in their customs the Homeric heroes are like boys in the fri- 
volity of their minds, like women in the vigor of their imaginations and like 
turbulent youths in the boiling fervor of their wrath, as was also shown above, 
and therefore it is impossible that a philosopher should have conceived them 
so naturally and felicitously. 


830 The ineptitudes and indecencies, as we have already proved, are 
effects of the awkwardness with which the Greek peoples had labored to express 
themselves in the extreme poverty of their language in its formative period. 


831 And even if the Homeric poems contained the most sublime mys- 
teries of esoteric wisdom, as we have shown in the Poetic Wisdom that they 
certainly do not, the form in which they are expressed could not have been 
conceived by a straightforward, orderly and serious mind such as befits a 


832 The heroic language, as we have seen above in the Origins of Lan- 
guages in the second book, was a language of similes, images and comparisons, 
born of the lack of genera and species, which are necessary for the proper 
definition of things, and hence born of a necessity of nature common to all 


833 It was by a necessity of nature, as we also said in the second book, 
that the first nations spoke in heroic verse. Here too we must admire the provi- 
dence which, in the time when the characters of common script were not yet 
invented, ordained that the nations should speak in verses so that their memories 
might be aided by meter and rhythm to preserve more easily the histories of their 
families and cities. 



834 These fables, sentences and customs, this language and verse, were 
all called heroic, and were current in the times to which history has assigned 
the heroes, as has been fully shown above in the Poetic Wisdom. 


835 Hence all the aforesaid were properties of entire peoples and con- 
sequently common to all the individual men of these peoples. 


836 In virtue, however, of the very nature from which sprang all the 
aforesaid properties, which made Homer the greatest of poets, we denied that 
he was ever a philosopher. 


837 Further we showed above in the Poetic Wisdom that the meanings 
of esoteric wisdom were intruded into the Homeric fables by the philosophers 
who came later. 


838 But, as esoteric wisdom appertains to but few individual men, so 
we have just seen that the very decorum of the heroic poetic characters, in which 
consists all the essence of the heroic fables, cannot be achieved today by men 
most learned in philosophy, in the art of poetry and in the art of criticism. It is 
for this decorum that Aristotle and Horace give the palm to Homer, the former 
saying that his lies are beyond equal and the latter that his characters are inimi- 
table, which comes to the same thing. 



839 With this great number of philosophical proofs, resulting in large 
part from the metaphysical criticism of the founders of the gentile nations, 
among whom we must number Homer since certainly we have no more ancient 
profane writer than he (as Josephus the Jew stoutly maintains), we may conjoin 
the following philological proofs. 


840 All ancient profane histories have fabulous beginnings. 



841 Barbarous peoples, cut off from all the other nations of the world, 
as were the Germans and the American Indians, have been found to preserve in 
verses the beginnings of their history, as we have seen above. 


842 It was the poets who began to write Roman history. 


843 In the returned barbarian times, the histories were written by the 
poets who wrote in Latin. 


844 Manetho, high priest of the Egyptians, interpreted the ancient his- 
tory of Egypt, written in hieroglyphics, as a sublime natural theology. 


845 In the Poetic Wisdom we showed that the Greek philosophers did 
the same with the early history of Greece recounted in fables. 


846 Wherefore above in the Poetic Wisdom we were obliged to reverse 
the path of Manetho and, taking our point of departure from the mystical inter- 
pretations, to restore to the fables their original historical meanings; and the 
naturalness and ease, free of violence, subterfuge or distortion, with which we 
were able to do so, show that the historical allegories which they contained were 
proper to them. 


847 All of which strongly confirms the assertion of Strabo, in a golden 
passage, that before Herodotus, or rather before Hecataeus of Miletus, the his- 
tory of the peoples of Greece was all written by their poets. 


848 And in the second book we showed that the first writers of both 
ancient and modern nations were poets. 


849 There are two golden passages in the Odyssey in which it is said, in 
praise of a speaker who has told a story well, that he has told it like a musician 
or singer. Just such indeed were the Homeric rhapsodes, who were vulgar men, 
each preserving by memory some part of the Homeric poems. 



850 Homer left none of his poems in writing, according to the firm as- 
sertion of Flavius Josephus the Jew against Apion the Greek grammarian, which 
we have several times cited. 


851 The rhapsodes went about the cities of Greece singing the books of 
Homer at the fairs and festivals, one singing one of them, another another. 


852 By the etymology of their name from the two words which compose 
it, rhapsodes were stitchers together of songs, and these songs they must cer- 
tainly have collected from none other than their own peoples. Similarly [the 
common noun] homeros is said to come from homou, "together," and eirein, 
"to link"; thus signifying a guarantor, as being one who binds creditor and 
debtor together. This derivation is as far-fetched and forced [when applied to a 
guarantor] as it is natural and proper when applied to our Homer as a tier or 
putter together of fables. 


853 The Pisistratids, tyrants of Athens, divided and arranged the poems 
of Homer, or had them divided and arranged, into [two groups,] the Iliad and 
Odyssey. Hence we may understand what a confused mass of material they 
must have been before, when the difference we can observe between the styles 
of the two poems is infinite. 


854 The Pisistratids also ordered that from that time on the poems should 
be sung by the rhapsodes at the Panathcnaic festivals, as Cicero writes in his 
On the Nature of the Gods, and Aelian also, who is followed on this point by 
[his editor] Scheffer. 


855 But the Pisistratids were expelled from Athens only a few years be- 
fore the expulsion of the Tarquins from Rome. So, if we assume that Homer 
lived at the time of Numa, as we have proved above, a long time must still have 
ensued after the Pisistratids during which the rhapsodes continued to preserve 
his poems by memory. This tradition takes away all credit from the other ac- 
cording to which it was at the time of the Pisistratids that Aristarchus purged, 
divided and arranged the poems of Homer, for that could not have been done 
without vulgar writing, and so from then on there would have been no need 
of rhapsodes to sing the several parts of them from memory. 



856 By this reasoning, Hesiod, who left his works in writing, would have 
to be placed after the Pisistratids, since we have no authority for supposing that 
he was preserved by the memory of the rhapsodes as Homer was, though the 
vain diligence of the chronologists has placed him thirty years before Homer. 
Like the Homeric rhapsodes, however, were the cyclic poets, who preserved all 
the fabulous history of Greece from the origins of their gods down to the return 
of Ulysses to Ithaca. These cyclic poets, so called from fytyos, "circle," could 
have been no other than simple men who would sing the fables to the common 
people gathered in a circle around them on festive days. The circle is precisely 
the one alluded to by Horace in his Art of Poetry in the phrase vilem patulumquc 
orbem, "the base and large circle," concerning which Dacier is not at all satisfied 
with the commentators who assert that Horace here means long episodes or di- 
gressions. And perhaps the reason for his dissatisfaction is this: that it is not neces- 
sary that an episode in a plot be base simply because it is long. To cite examples, 
the episode of the joys of Rinaldo and Armida in the enchanted garden, and 
that of the conversation of the old shepherd with Erminia, are indeed long but 
are not therefore base; for the former is ornate and the latter tenuous and delicate, 
and both are noble. But in this passage Horace, having advised the tragic poets 
to take their arguments from the poems of Homer, runs into the difficulty that 
in that case they would not be [creative] poets, since their plots would be those 
invented by Homer. So Horace answers them that the epic stories of Homer 
will become tragic plots of their own if they will bear three things in mind. 
The first is to refrain from making idle paraphrases, in the way we still see men 
read the Orlando jurioso or the [Orlando] tnnamorato or some other rhymed 
romance to the "base and large circles" of idle people on feast days, and, after 
reciting each stanza, explain it to them in prose with more words. The second is 
not to be faithful translators. The third and last is not to be servile imitators, but, 
adhering to the characters that Homer attributes to his heroes, to bring forth 
from them new sentiments, speeches and actions in conformity with them; thus 
on the same subjects they will be new poets in the style of Homer. So, in the same 
work, Horace speaks of a "cyclical poet" as a trivial market-place poet. Authors 
of this sort are ordinarily called tyklioi and entytyoi, and their collective work 
was called tytyos epifys, kytyia cpe, poiema entytyifon, and sometimes {ytyos 
without qualification, as Gerard Langbaine observes in his preface to Dionysius 
Longinus. So in this way it may be that Hesiod, who contains all the fables of 
the gods, is earlier than Homer. 


857 For this reason the same may be said of Hippocrates, who left many 
great works, written not indeed in verse but in prose, so that they naturally 


could not have been preserved by memory; whence he is to be assigned to about 
the time of Herodotus. 


858 From all this [it is evident that] Vossius placed an excess of good 
faith in the three heroic inscriptions with which he thought he could confute 
Josephus. For these inscriptions, the first of Amphitryon, the second of Hip- 
pocoon, and the third of Laomedon [i.e. Laodamas], are impostures similar to 
those still committed by falsifiers of medals. Martin Schoock supports Josephus 
against Vossius. 


859 We may add that Homer never mentions vulgar Greek letters, and 
the epistle written by Proetus to Eureia as a trap for Bellerophon is said by 
Homer to have been written in semata, as we noted above. 


860 Though Aristarchus emended Homer's poems, they still retain a 
great variety of dialects and many improprieties of speech, which must have 
been idiomatic expressions of various peoples of Greece, and many licenses in 
meter besides. 


861 The fatherland of Homer is not known, as we observed above. 


862 Almost all the cities of Greece laid claim to him, as has also been 
noted above. 


863 Above we have brought forward strong conjectures that the Homer 
of the Odyssey was from the west of Greece and toward the south, and that the 
Homer of the Iliad was from the east and toward the north. 


864 Not even Homer's age is known. 


865 The opinions on this point are so numerous and so varied that the 
divergence extends to 460 years, the extreme estimates putting it as early as the 
Trojan war and as late as the time of Numa. 



866 Dionysius Longinus, being unable to ignore the great diversity in 
the styles of the two poems, says that Homer composed the Iliad in his youth 
and the Odyssey in his old age: a strange detail to be known about a man of 
whom we do not know the two most important historical facts, namely when 
and where he lived, regarding which Longinus has left us in the dark in his 
discussion of the greatest luminary of Greece. 


867 This consideration should destroy all faith in Herodotus or whoever 
was the author of the Life of Homer, in which so many delightful minor details 
are narrated as to fill an entire volume, and all trust as well in the Ltfe of him 
written by Plutarch, who, being a philosopher, spoke of him with greater 


868 But perhaps Longinus based his conjecture on the fact that in the 
Iliad Homer depicts the wrath and pride of Achilles, which are properties of 
youth, while in the Odyssey he relates the wiles and stratagems of Ulysses, 
which are characteristic of the aged. 


869 Tradition says that Homer was blind and that from his blindness he 
took his name, which in the Ionic dialect means blind. 


870 Homer himself describes as blind the poets who sing at the banquets 
of the great, such as the one who sings at the banquet of Alcinous for Ulysses, 
and the one who sings at the feast of the suitors. 


871 It is a property of human nature that the blind have marvelously 
retentive memories. 


872 And finally [tradition says] that he was poor and wandered through 
the market places of Greece singing his own poems. 




873 Now all these things reasoned out by us or related by others con- 
cerning Homer and his poems, without our having intentionally aimed at any 
such result indeed it had not even entered into our reflections when readers of 
the first edition of this New Science (which was not worked out on the same 
method as the present), men of acute minds and excelling in scholarship and 
learning, suspected that the Homer believed in up to now was not real all 
these things, I say, now compel us to affirm that the same thing has happened 
in the case of Homer as in that of the Trojan war, of which the most judicious 
critics hold that though it marks a famous epoch in history it never in the world 
took place. And certainly if, as in the case of the Trojan war, there did not remain 
of Homer certain great vestiges in the form of his poems, the great difficulties 
would lead us to conclude that he was a purely ideal poet who never existed as 
a particular man in the world of nature. But the many great difficulties on 
the one hand, taken together with the surviving poems on the other, seem to 
force us to take the middle ground that Homer was an idea or a heroic char- 
acter of Grecian men insofar as they told their history in song. 





874 In the light of this discovery, all the things in the speeches and in the 
narrative which are improprieties and improbabilities in the Homer hitherto 


believed in become proper and necessary in the Homer herein discovered. And 
first of all, those most important matters concerning Homer on which we are 
left in uncertainty compel us to say: 


875 That the reason why the Greek peoples so vied with each other for 
the honor of being his fatherland, and why almost all claimed him as citizen, 
is that the Greek peoples were themselves Homer. 


876 That the reason why opinions as to his age vary so much is that 
our Homer truly lived on the lips and in the memories of the peoples of Greece 
throughout the whole period from the Trojan war down to the time of Numa, 
a span of 460 years. 


877 And the blindness 


878 and the poverty of Homer were characteristics of the rhapsodes, who, 
being blind, whence each of them was called homer os, had exceptionally re- 
tentive memories, and, being poor, sustained life by singing the poems of Homer 
throughout the cities of Greece; and they were the authors of these poems inas- 
much as they were a part of these peoples who had composed their histories in 
the poems. 

879 Thus Homer composed the Iliad in his youth, that is when Greece 
was young and consequendy seething with sublime passions, such as pride, 
wrath and lust for vengeance, passions which do not tolerate dissimulation but 
which love magnanimity; and hence this Greece admired Achilles, the hero of 
violence. But he wrote the Odyssey in his old age, that is when the spirits of 
Greece had been somewhat cooled by reflection, which is the mother of prudence, 
so that it admired Ulysses, the hero of wisdom. Thus in the time of Homer's 
youth the peoples of Greece found pleasure in coarseness, villainy, ferocity, 
savagery and cruelty, while in the time of his old age they found delight in the 
luxury of Alcinous, the joys of Calypso, the pleasures of Circe, the songs of the 
Sirens, the pastimes of the suitors, and the attempts, nay the siege and the as- 
saults on the chastity of Penelope: two sets of customs which, conceived above as 
existing at the same time, seemed to us incompatible. This difficulty was enough 
to cause the divine Plato to declare, in order to solve it, that Homer had fore- 
seen by inspiration these nauseating, morbid and dissolute customs. Yet in this 
way he merely made of Homer a stupid organizer of Greek civilization, for, 


however much he may condemn, he nevertheless teaches these corrupt and 
decadent customs which were to come long after the nations of Greece had been 
organized, to the end that, by an acceleration of the natural course of human 
affairs, the Greeks might hasten on toward corruption. 


880 In this fashion we show that the Homer who was the author of the 
Iliad preceded by many centuries the Homer who was the author of the Odyssey. 


881 And we show that it was from the northeastern part of Greece that 
the Homer came who sang of the Trojan war, which took place in his country, 
and that it was from the southwestern part of Greece that the Homer came who 
sang of Ulysses, whose kingdom was in that region. 


882 Thus Homer, lost in the crowd of the Greek peoples, is justified 
against all the accusations leveled at him by the critics, and particularly [against 
those made] on account of his 


883 base sentences, 


884 vulgar customs, 


885 crude comparisons, 


886 local idioms, 


887 licenses in meter, 


888 variations in dialect, 


889 and his having made men of gods and gods of men. 

890 These last-mentioned fables Dionysius Longinus does not trust him- 
self to sustain save by the props of philosophical allegories, which amounts to 
admitting that, as they sounded when sung to the Greeks, they cannot have 
brought Homer the glory of having been the organizer of Greek civilization. 


The same difficulty recurs in Homer's case which, above in the Notes on the 
Chronological Table, we raised against Orpheus as the founder of Greek hu- 
manity. But the aforesaid properties and particularly the last all appertained 
to the Greek peoples themselves. For inasmuch as at their founding they were 
themselves pious, religious, chaste, strong, just and magnanimous, they made 
their gods so also, as our natural theogony has demonstrated above; then later, 
in the long passage of the years, as the fables became obscure and customs de- 
cayed, from their own character they judged the gods too to be dissolute, as we 
have set forth at length in the Poetic Wisdom. This in virtue of the axiom laid 
down above [220], that men naturally bend obscure or dubious laws to their own 
passions and utilities. For they feared that the gods would not be agreeable 
to their desires if they were not like them in customs, as we have already 


891 But more than ever to Homer belong by right the two great pre- 
eminences which are really one: that poetic falsehoods, as Aristotle says, and 
heroic characters, as Horace says, could be created only by him. On this account 
Horace avows himself to be no poet because he lacks the knack or the wit to 
maintain what he calls the colors of works, colores operum, which means the 
same thing as the poetic untruths of Aristotle's phrase, for in Plautus we find 
obtinere colorem in the sense of telling a lie that under every aspect has the 
appearance of truth, which is what a good fable must be. 

892 In addition to these, all those other preeminences fall to him which 
have been ascribed to him by all the masters of the art of poetry, declaring him 


893 in his wild and savage comparisons, 


894 in his cruel and fearful descriptions of battles and deaths, 


895 in his sentences filled with sublime passions, 


896 in the clarity and splendor of his style. All these were properties of 
the heroic age of the Greeks, in which and throughout which Homer was an 
incomparable poet, just because, in the age of vigorous memory, robust imagina- 
tion and sublime invention, he was in no sense a philosopher. 



897 Wherefore neither philosophies, arts of poetry, nor arts of criticism, 
which came later, could create a poet who could come anywhere near to rivaling 

898 And, what is more, his title is assured to the three immortal eulogies 
that are given him: 


899 first, of having been the organizer of Greek polity or civilization; 


900 second, of having been the father of all other poets; 


901 and third, of having been the source of all Greek philosophies. None 
of these eulogies could have been given to the Homer hitherto believed in. Not 
the first, for, counting from the time of Deucalion and Pyrrha, Homer comes 
eighteen hundred years after the institution of marriage had laid the first founda- 
tions of Greek civil life, as we have shown throughout the Poetic Wisdom. Not 
the second, for it was certainly before Homer's time that the theological poets 
flourished, such as Orpheus, Amphion, Linus, Musaeus and others, among 
whom the chronologists have placed Hesiod, putting him three hundred years 
before Homer. And Cicero affirms in his Brutus that there were other heroic 
poets before Homer, whom Eusebius mentions by name in his Praeparatio 
evangelica, such as Philammon, Thamyris, Demodocus, Epimenides, Aristaeus 
and others. And, finally, not the third, for, as we have shown fully and at 
length in the Poetic Wisdom, the philosophers did not discover their philosophies 
in the Homeric fables but rather inserted them therein. But it was poetic wisdom 
itself whose fables provided occasions for the philosophers to meditate their 
lofty truths, and supplied them also with means for expounding them, as we 
showed throughout the second book in fulfilment of die promise made at its be- 



902 But above all, in virtue of our discovery we may ascribe to him an 
additional and most dazzling glory: 



903 that of having been the first historian of the entire gentile world who 
has come down to us. 


904 Wherefore his poems should henceforth be highly prized as being 
two great treasure stores of the customs of early Greece. But the same fate has 
befallen the poems of Homer as the Law of the Twelve Tables; for, just as the 
latter, having been held to be the laws given by Solon to the Athenians and sub- 
sequently taken over by the Romans, has up to now concealed from us the his- 
tory of the natural law of the heroic nations of Latium, so the Homeric poems, 
having been regarded as works produced by a single supreme poet, have hitherto 
concealed from us the history of the natural law of the nations of Greece. 



905 We have already shown above that there were three ages of poets 
before Homer. The first was the age of the theological poets, who were them- 
selves heroes and sang true and austere fables; the second, that of the heroic 
poets who altered and corrupted the fables; and the third that of Homer, who 
received them in their altered and corrupted form. Now the same metaphysical 
criticism of the history of the obscurest antiquity, that is, the explanation of the 
ideas the earliest nations naturally formed, can illuminate and distinguish for 
us the history of the dramatic and lyric poets, on which the philosophers have 
written only in an obscure and confused fashion. 

906 The philosophers class among the lyric poets Amphion [i.e. Arion] 
of Methymna, a most ancient poet of heroic times, and affirm that he discovered 
the dithyramb and therewith the chorus, and that he introduced the singing of 
verses by satyrs, and that the dithyramb was a chorus led about singing verses in 
praise of Bacchus. They say that noteworthy tragic poets flourished within the 
period of the lyric; and Diogenes Laertius affirms that the first tragedy was 
represented by the chorus alone. They say that Aeschylus was the first tragic 
poet, and Pausanias relates that he was commanded by Bacchus to write tragedies 
(although Horace says that Thespis was their originator, in that passage of his 
Art of Poetry where he begins his treatment of tragedy with satire, and that 
Thespis introduced satire [i.e. the satyr play] on carts at vintage time). Later, 
they say, came Sophocles, called by Palaemon the Homer of the tragic poets; 
and the cycle was completed by Euripides, whom Aristotle calls tragi1(5taton, the 
most tragic of them all. They say that in the same period came Aristophanes, 
who invented the Old Comedy and opened the way for the New (which was 
later traveled by Menander), with his play entitled The Clouds, which was the 
ruin of Socrates. Then some of them put Hippocrates in the time of the tragic 
poets, others in the lyric period. But Sophocles and Euripides lived somewhat 
before the time of the Law of the Twelve Tables, and the lyric poets came even 
later; which would seem to upset the chronology which puts Hippocrates in 
the age of the Seven Sages of Greece. 


907 To solve this difficulty we must declare that there were two kinds 
of tragic poets and two kinds of lyric poets. 

908 The ancient lyric poets must in the first place have been the authors 
of hymns in honor of the gods, like those attributed to Homer, composed in 
heroic verse. They must later have been the poets of that lyric vein in which 
Achilles sings to his lyre the praises of the heroes who have gone before. 
Similarly among the Latins the first poets were the authors of the Salian verses, 
which were hymns sung by the priests called Salii on the festival days of the gods. 
(The priests were perhaps so called from satio, "to leap," even as the first Greek 
choruses danced in a circle.) The fragments of these verses are the most ancient 
memorials of the Latin language that have come down to us, and they have 
something of the feeling of heroic verse, as we have already observed. All of 
which is in accord with the beginnings of the humanity of the nations, which 
in the first or religious period must have offered praise only to the gods (even 
as in the returned barbarian times this religious custom returned, and the priests, 
the only literate men of the time, composed only sacred hymns) ; whereas later, 
in the heroic period, they must have admired and celebrated only the great deeds 
of heroes, such as those sung by Achilles. It is to this kind of sacred lyric poets 
that Amphion [i.e. Arion] of Methymna must have belonged. He was also the 
originator of the dithyramb, which was the first rough beginning of tragedy, 
composed in heroic vesse (the first kind of verse in which the Greeks sang, as 
shown above). Thus the dithyramb of Amphion was the first satire, and it is 
with satire that Horace begins his discussion of tragedy. 

909 The new lyric poets were the melic poets, whose prince is Pindar, 
and who wrote in verse what we in Italian call aric per musica. This sort of 
verse must have come later than the iambic, which in turn, as we have shown 
above, was the kind of verse in which the Greeks commonly spoke after the 
heroic verse. Thus Pindar came in the times of the pompous bravery of Greece 
admired at the Olympic games, at which these lyric poets sang. In the same way 
Horace came in the most sumptuous times of Rome, under the reign of Augustus; 
and among the Italians the melic period came in the times of the greatest soft- 
ness and tenderness. ' 

910 The tragic and comic poets ran their course between the following 
limits. Thespis in one part of Greece and Amphion [i.e Arion] in another 
originated at vintage time the satire or satyr play, the primitive form of tragedy, 
with satyrs for its characters. In the rough and simple fashion of those days they 
must have invented the first mask by covering their feet, legs and thighs with 
goat skins which they must have had at hand, and painting their breasts and 
faces with the lees of wine and fitting their foreheads with horns (on which 
account perhaps in our own day the vintagers are still vulgarly called "horned," 
cornuti). In this sense it may well be true that Bacchus, god of the vintage, com- 
manded Aeschylus to compose tragedies. All of which accords well with the 
times wher% the heroes were asserting that the plebeians were monsters of two 


natures, half man, half goat, as we have fully set forth above. Thus there is strong 
ground for conjecture that tragedy had its beginnings in this chorus of satyrs and 
that it took its name from the primitive mask we have described, rather than 
from the award of a tragos or goat to the winner in a competition in this sort 
of verse. (Horace glances at this latter possibility without making anything 
of it, and calls the goat paltry.) And the satire preserved this eternal property 
with which it was born: that of expressing invective and insult; for the peasants, 
thus roughly masked and riding in the carts in which they carried the grapes, 
had the license as the vintagers still have in our happy Campania (once called 
the dwelling of Bacchus) of hurling abuse at their betters. Hence we may 
understand with how little truth the learned later inserted into the fable of Pan 
(for fan signifies "all") the philosophical mythology to the effect that he signi- 
fies the universe, and that the hairy nether parts mean the earth, the red breast 
and face the element of fire and the horns the sun and the moon. The Romans, 
however, preserved for us the historical mythology concerning him in the word 
satyra, which, according to Festus, was a dish made of various kinds of foods. 
Hence the later expression lex per satyram for an omnibus law. So, in dramatic 
satire, which we are discussing here, according to Horace (for no examples of 
this form have come down to us either from the Greeks or from the Latins) 
various types of characters made their appearance, such as gods, heroes, kings, 
artisans and slaves. But the satire that survived among the Romans does not 
treat of varied matters, since each poem is devoted to a separate argument. 

911 Then Aeschylus brought about the transition from the Old Tragedy, 
that is the satyr play, to Middle Tragedy by using human masks and by con- 
verting the dithyramb of Amphion, which was a chorus of satyrs, into a chorus 
of men. And Middle Tragedy must have been the origin of Old Comedy, in 
which great personages were portrayed and the chorus was therefore fitting. 
Afterwards came first Sophocles and then Euripides, who left us the final form 
of tragedy. The Old Comedy ended with Aristophanes, because of the scandal 
about Socrates; and Menander bequeathed us the New Comedy, built around 
private and fictitious personages, who could be fictitious because they were 
private, and could therefore be believed to be real, as we have explained above. 
Hence there was no longer any room for the chorus, which is a public that 
comments and comments only on public matters. 

912 In this way the satire was composed in heroic verse, as the Latins 
afterwards preserved it, because the first peoples spoke in heroic verse. Later 
they spoke in iambic verse, so that tragedy was composed in iambic verse quite 
naturally, and comedy only by an empty adherence to precedent when the Greek 
peoples were already speaking in prose. The iambic meter was certainly appro- 
priate to tragedy, for it is a verse born to give vent to anger, and its movement is 
that of what Horace calls a swift foot (as noted in an axiom [233]). Vulgar 
tradition says that it was invented by Archilochus to vent his wrath against 
Lycambcs, who had refused to give him his daughter in marriage, and that the 


bitterness of his verses drove father and daughter to hang themselves in despera- 
tion. This must have been a history of the heroic contest over connubium, in 
which the rebellious plebeians must have hanged the nobles along with their 

913 So was born that monstrosity of poetic art by which the same violent, 
rapid and excited verse is made to fit such grand poetry as that of tragedy, con- 
sidered by Plato even more lofty than the epic, and at the same time such delicate 
poetry as that of comedy; and the same metric foot, well adapted, as we have 
said, to express wrath and rage, in which tragedy must break forth so fearfully, 
is considered equally good as a vehicle for jests, games and sentimental love 
affairs, which must make up all the grace and charm of comedy. 

914 As a result of the indiscriminate use of the terms lyric and tragic, 
Hippocrates was placed in the time of the Seven Sages; but he should rather be 
put about the time of Herodotus, since he came at a time when men still spoke 
largely in fables (for his own life has a tinge of the fabulous, and Herodotus's 
History is largely narrated in the form of fables), yet not only had speech in 
prose been introduced but also writing in vulgar characters, in which Herodotus 
wrote his history and Hippocrates wrote the many works on medicine that have 
come down to us, as we have already said above. 




915 In virtue of the principles of this Science established in the first 
book, and of the origins of all the divine and human things of the gentile world 
which we investigated and discovered in the second book, and of the discovery 
in the third book that the poems of Homer are two great treasure stores of the 
natural law of the nations of Greece (just as we had already found the Law 
of the Twelve Tables to be a great monument of the natural law of the nations of 
Latium), we shall now, by the aid of this philosophical and philological illumina- 
tion, and relying on the Axioms above stated concerning the ideal eternal his- 
tory [241-245], in this fourth book discuss the course the nations take, proceed- 
ing in all their various and diverse customs with constant uniformity upon the 
division of the three ages which the Egyptians said had elapsed before them in 
their world, namely, the successive ages of gods, heroes and men. For the nations 
will be seen to develop in conformity with this division by a constant and unin- 
terrupted order of causes and effects present in every nation, through three kinds 
of natures. From these natures arise three kinds of customs; and in virtue of 
these customs three kinds of natural laws of nations are observed; and in con- 
sequence of these laws three kinds of civil states or commonwealths are estab- 
lished. And in order that men, having reached the stage of human society, may 
on the one hand communicate to each other the aforesaid three most important 
matters [customs, laws, commonwealths], three kinds of languages and as many 
of characters are formed; and in order that they may on the other hand justify 
them, three kinds of jurisprudence assisted by three kinds of authority and three 
kinds of reason in as many of judgments. The three kinds of jurisprudence pre- 
vail in three sects of times, which the nations profess in the course of their history. 
These [groups of] three special unities, with many others that derive from them 
and will also be enumerated in this book, all lead to one general unity. This is 
the unity of the religion of a provident divinity, which is the unity of the spirit 
informing and giving life to this world of nations. Having discussed these mat- 
ters above in fragmentary fashion, we shall here exhibit the order of their de- 



916 The first nature, by an illusion of imagination, which is most robust 
in those weakest in reasoning power, was a poetic or creative nature which we 
may be allowed to call divine, as it ascribed to physical things the being of sub- 
stances animated by gods, assigning the gods to them according to its idea of 
each. This nature was that of the theological poets, who were the earliest wise 
men in all the gentile nations, when all the gentile nations were founded on the 
belief which each of them had in certain gods of its own. Furthermore it was a 
nature all fierce and cruel; but, through that same error of their imagination, 
men had a terrible fear of the gods whom they themselves had created. From 
this period there remained two eternal properties: one, that religion is the only 
means powerful enough to restrain the fierceness of peoples; and the other, 
that religions prosper when those who preside over them are themselves in- 
wardly reverent. 

917 The second was the heroic nature, believed by the heroes them- 
selves to be of divine origin; for, since they believed that the gods made every- 
thing, they held themselves to be children of Jove, as having been generated under 
his auspices. Being thus of the human [not a bestial] species, they regarded their 
heroism as including the natural nobility in virtue of which they were the princes 
of the human race. And this natural nobility they made their boast over those 
who had fled from the infamous and bestial communism to save themselves 
from the strife it entailed, and had taken refuge in their asylums; for, since they 
had come thither without gods, the heroes regarded them as beasts. We have 
discussed these two natures above. 

918 The third was human nature, intelligent and hence modest, benign 
and reasonable, recognizing for laws conscience, reason and duty. 



919 The first customs were all tinged with religion and piety, like those 
of Deucalion and Pyrrha, fresh from the flood. 

920 The second were choleric and punctilious, like those related of 

921 The third are dutiful, taught by one's own sense of civil duty. 



922 The first law was divine, for men believed themselves and all their 
property to depend on the gods, since they thought everything was a god or was 
made or done by a god. 

923 The second was heroic law, the law of force, but controlled by re- 
ligion, which alone can keep force within bounds where there are no human laws 
or none strong enough to curb it. Hence providence ordained that the first 
peoples, ferocious by nature, should be persuaded by this their religion to ac- 
quiesce naturally in force, and that, being as yet incapable of reason, they should 
measure right by fortune, with a view to which they took counsel by auspicial 
divination. This law of force is the law of Achilles, who referred every right to 
the tip of his spear. 

924 The third is the human law dictated by fully developed human 



925 The first were divine, or, as the Greeks would say, theocratic, in 
which men believed that everything was commanded by the gods. This was the 
age of oracles, which are the earliest thing we read of in history* 

926 The second were heroic or aristocratic governments, which is as 
much as to say governments of the optimates in the sense of the most powerful* In 
Greek they were called governments of Heraclids (men sprung from the race of 
Hercules), in the sense of nobles; these were scattered throughout early Greece, 
and survived at Sparta. They were also called governments of Curetes, which the 
Greeks found scattered in Saturma (ancient Italy), Crete and Asia; and hence 
governments of Quintes among the Romans, that is of armed priests in public 
assembly. In governments of this kind, in virtue of the distinction of a nobler 
nature ascribed to divine origin, as we have noted above, all civil rights were 
confined to the ruling orders of the heroes themselves, and the plebeians, being 
considered of bestial origin, were only permitted to enjoy life and natural liberty. 

927 The third are human governments, in which, in virtue of the 
equality of the intelligent nature which is the proper nature of man, all are 
accounted equal under the laws, inasmuch as all are born free in their cities. 
This is the case in the free popular cities in which all or the majority make up 
the just forces of the city, in virtue of which they are the lords of popular 
liberty. It is also the case in monarchies, in which the monarchs make all their 
subjects equal under their laws, and, having all the force of arms in their own 
hands, are themselves the only bearers of any distinction in civil nature. 



928 Three kinds of languages. 

929 The first of these was a divine mental language by mute religious 
acts or divine ceremonies, from which there survived in Roman civil law the 
actus legitimi which accompanied all their civil transactions. This language 
belongs to religions by the eternal property that it concerns them more to be 
reverenced than to be reasoned, and it was necessary in the earliest times when 
men did not yet possess articulate speech. 

930 Th second was by heroic blazonings, with which arms are made to 
speak; this kind of speech, as we have said above, survived in military discipline. 

931 The trnrd is by articulate speech, which is used by all nations today. 



932 Three kinds of characters, 

933 The first were divine, properly called hieroglyphics, used, as we have 
shown above, by all nations in their beginnings. And they were certain imagina- 
tive universals, dictated naturally by the human mind's innate property of de- 
lighting in the uniform (on which we set forth an axiom [204]). When they 
could not achieve this by logical abstraction, they did it by imaginative represen- 
tation. To these poetic universals they reduced all the particular species belonging 
to each genus, as to Jove everything concerning the auspices, to Juno everything 
touching marriage, and so on. 

934 The second were heroic characters, which were also imaginative 
universals to which they reduced the various species of heroic things, as to 
Achilles all the deeds of valiant fighters and to Ulysses all the devices of clever 
men. These imaginative genera, as the human mind later learned to abstract 
forms and properties from subjects, passed over into intelligible genera, which 
prepared the way for the philosophers, from whom the authors of the New 
Comedy, which came in the most civilized times of Greece, took the intelligible 
genera of human customs and portrayed them in their comedies. 

935 Finally, there were invented the vulgar characters which went along 
with the vulgar languages. The latter are composed of words, which are genera 
as it were of the particulars previously employed by the heroic languages; as, to 
repeat an example cited above, from the heroic phrase "the blood boils in my 
heart" they made the word "I am angry/' In like fashion, of a hundred and 
twenty thousand hieroglyphic characters (the number still used, for example, by 
the Chinese) they made a few letters, to which, as to genera, they reduced the 
hundred and twenty thousand words (of which the Chinese vulgar spoken 
language is composed). This invention certainly is the work of a mind more 
than human; whence, as we learned above, Bernard von Mallinckrodt and 
Ingewald El ing held it to be a divine invention. It is easy to understand how 
the common sense of marvel led the nations to believe that men eminent in 
divinity had invented these letters, as St. Jerome among the Illyrians, St. Cyril 


among the Slavs, and so on, as Angelo Roccha observes in his Bibliothcca 
Vaticana, where the authors of what we call vulgar letters are depicted along 
with their alphabets. But such an opinion can be convicted of manifest falsity if 
we pose the simple question: Why did they not teach letters of their own crea- 
tion? We have raised this difficulty in the case of Cadmus above, who brought 
letters from Phoenicia to the Greeks, and the latter afterwards used letters of 
very different forms from the Phoenician. 

936 Above we affirmed that such languages and letters were under the 
sovereignty of the vulgar of the various peoples, whence both are called vulgar. 
In virtue of this sovereignty over languages and letters, the free peoples must 
also be masters of their laws, for they impose on the laws the senses in which 
they constrain the powerful to observe them, even against their will, as we 
noted in the Axioms [283], It is naturally not in the power of monarchs to de- 
prive the people of this sovereignty, but, in virtue of this very inalienable nature 
of human civil affairs, such sovereignty, inseparable from the people, contributes 
largely to the power of the monarchs, for they may issue their royal laws, which 
the nobles must accept, according to the senses that their peoples give to them. 
This sovereignty over vulgar letters and languages implies that, in the order 
of civil nature, the free popular commonwealths preceded the monarchies. 



937 Three kinds of jurisprudence or [legal] wisdom. 

938 The first was a divine wisdom, called, as we have seen, mystic 
theology, which means the science of divine speech or the understanding of the 
divine mysteries of divination. This science of auspicial divinity was the vulgar 
wisdom whose sages were the theological poets, who were the first sages of the 
gentile world. From this mystic theology they were called mystai or mystics, 
which the well-informed Horace translates as interpreters of the gods. To this 
first jurisprudence therefore belonged the first and proper interpreting, called 
interpretari for interpatrari, that is, "to enter into the fathers," as the gods were 
at first called as we observed above. Dante would call it indtarsi, "to enter into 
the mind of God." This sort of jurisprudence measured justice only by the 
solemnity of the divine ceremonies, whence the Romans preserved such a super- 
stitious regard for the actus Icgitimi and they retained in their language the 
phrases iustae nuptiae, iustum testamentum for solemnized nuptials and testa- 

939 The second was the heroic jurisprudence, taking precautions by the 
use of certain proper words. Such is the wisdom of Ulysses who speaks so 
adroitly in Homer that he obtains the advantages he seeks while always observ- 
ing the propriety of his words. Hence all the reputation of the ancient Roman 
jurisconsults rested in their cavere, their taking care or making sure; and their 
dc iure respondere was nothing but cautioning clients who had to present their 
cases in court to set forth the facts to the praetor with such circumstances that 
the formulae for action would be satisfied and the praetor would be unable to 
withhold them. Similarly in the returned barbarian times all the reputation of the 
doctors rested on finding safeguards for contracts and wills and on knowing 
how to draw up pleas at law and articles; which correspond exactly to the 
cavere and the de iure respondere of the Roman jurisconsults. 

940 The third is human jurisprudence, which looks to the truth of the 
facts themselves and benignly bends the rule of law to all the requirements of the 
equity of the causes. This kind of jurisprudence is observed in the free popular 


commonwealths and even more under the monarchies, which are both human 

941 Thus divine and heroic jurisprudence laid hold of the certain when 
the nations were rude, and human jurisprudence looked to the true when they 
had become enlightened. All this in consequence of the definitions of the certain 
and the true, and of the axioms set forth on the matter in our Elements [137, 



942 There were three kinds of authority. The first is divine, and of this 
we ask no accounting by providence. The second is heroic, resting entirely 
on the solemn formulae of the laws. The third is human, based on the trust 
placed in persons of experience, of singular prudence in practical matters, and 
of sublime wisdom in intellectual matters. 

943 These three kinds of authority employed by jurisprudence in the 
course which the nations take, correspond to three sorts of authority appertain- 
ing to senates, which succeed one another in the aforesaid course. 

944 The first was the authority of property ownership, in virtue of which 
those from whom we derive title to property were called auctores, and such own- 
ership is itself always called auctoritas in the Law of the Twelve Tables. This 
authority had its roots in divine governments from the time of the family state, 
in which divine authority must have been vested in the gods, for it was be- 
lieved, fairly enough, that everything belonged to the gods. Afterwards in the 
heroic aristocracies in which the senates were the seat of sovereignty (as they are 
in the aristocracies of our own time), authority quite properly was vested in these 
reigning senates. Hence the heroic senates gave their approval to that which 
the peoples had previously devised; as Livy puts it, eius, quod populus iusstsset, 
deinde patres fierent auctores. This does not, however, date from the interregnum 
of Romulus, as history relates, but from the declining period of the aristocracy 
when citizenship had been extended to the plebs, as explained above. This ar- 
rangement, as Livy himself says, saepe sfcctabat ad vim, frequently threatened 
to issue in revolt; so that, if the people wanted their proposals confirmed, they 
had, for example, to nominate for consuls those who were favored by the senate, 
just as is the case when magistrates are nominated by the people under mon- 

945 From the time of the law of Publilius Philo, which declared the 
Roman people free and absolute sovereign of the empire, as stated above, the 
authority of the senate was that of guardianship, just as the approval given by 
guardians to the transactions of their wards, who are masters of their own 


patrimonies, is called auctorltas tutorum. This [tutorial] authority was conferred 
by the senate on the people in the formula of the law drafted beforehand in the 
senate, by which, just as the authority of the guardian has to be conferred on the 
ward, so the senate was to be present in the people, present in the great assem- 
blies, present in the act of decreeing the law if they decided to decree it; otherwise 
they might reject ("antiquate") it, frobaret antiqua, that is, declare that they 
wished no change. All this in order that the people, in decreeing the laws, might 
not, by reason of their weak counsel, do any harm to the commonwealth, and in 
order that, in decreeing them, they might be regulated by the senate. Thus the 
formulae of the laws brought by the senate to the people to be decreed by them 
arc advisedly defined by Cicero as per scrip tae auctoritates: not personal authori- 
zations, like that of guardians who by their presence approve the acts of their 
wards, but authority set out at length in writing (for such is the sense of per- 
scribere), as distinguished from the formulae of actions, written per notas or 
employing abbreviations which are not understood by the people. This is what 
was ordained by the Publilian law: that henceforth the authority of the senate, in 
Livy's words, valeret in incertum cormtiorum eventum, should be committed 
while the outcome in the assembly is as yet uncertain. 

946 Finally the commonwealth passed from popular liberty to monarchy, 
and there ensued the third kind of authority, which is that of credit or reputa- 
tion for wisdom; and hence the authority of counsel, in respect of which the 
jurisconsults under the emperors were said to be auctores. Such also must be the 
authority of senates under monarchs, who have full and absolute liberty to fol- 
low or not to follow the counsel their senates give them. 





947 There were three kinds of reason. 

948 The first is divine and understood only by God; men know of it only 
what has been revealed to them. To the Hebrews first and then to the Christians, 
this has been by internal speech to their minds as the proper expression of a God 
all mind; but [also] by external speech through the prophets and through Jesus 
Christ to the apostles, by whom it was declared to the Church. To the gentiles 
it has been through the auspices, the oracles and other corporeal signs regarded 
as divine messages because they were supposed to come from the gods, whom the 
gentiles believed to be corporeal. So that in God who is all reason, reason and 
authority are the same thing; whence in good theology divine authority holds 
the same place as reason. Here providence is to be admired because, in the earliest 
times when the men of the gentile world did not understand reason (which must 
have been the case above all in the family state), it permitted them to fall into 
the error of following in place of reason the authority of the auspices, and to 
govern themselves by what they believed to be the divine counsels thereby com- 
municated. This by the eternal property that when men fail to see reason in 
human affairs, and much more if they see it opposed, they take refuge in the 
inscrutable counsels hidden in the abyss of divine providence. 

949 The second was reason of state, called by the Romans civilis acquitas, 
which Ulpian, as cited above in the Axioms [320], defined for us as not naturally 
known to all men but only to the few experts in government who are able to 
discern what is necessary for the preservation of mankind. In this the heroic 
senates were naturally wise, and above them all the Roman senate was most 
wise both in the times of aristocratic liberty, when the plebs was not permitted 
to take part in public affairs, and in the times of popular liberty, so long as the 
people were guided by the senate in public matters, which is to say down to the 
times of the Gracchi. 




950 Here arises a problem which seems very difficult to solve. How is it 
that the Romans could have been so wise in statecraft in the rude times of Rome, 
when in their enlightened times Ulpian says that "today only a few experts in 
government understand statecraft"? The answer is that, by virtue of the same 
natural causes which produced the heroism of the first peoples, the ancient Ro- 
mans, who were the heroes of the world, naturally looked to civil equity, which 
was most scrupulous about the words in which the laws were expressed. By this 
superstitious observance of their words, they made the laws march straight 
through all the facts, even where the laws turned out to be severe, harsh and cruel 
(in accordance with what we have said above), just as reason of state operates to- 
day. Thus civil equity naturally subordinated everything to that law, queen of all 
others, conceived by Cicero with a gravity adequate to the matter: Suprema lex 
populi salus est&r "Let the safety of the people be the supreme law/' For in 
heroic times, in which the states were aristocratic, as we have fully shown above, 
the heroes each possessed privately a large share of the public utility in the form 
of the family monarchies preserved for them by the fatherland; and in view of 
this great particular interest preserved for them by the commonwealth, they 
naturally subordinated their minor private interests. Hence naturally as mag- 
nanimous men they defended the public good, which is that of the state, and as 
wise men they gave counsel on affairs of state. This was a high counsel of divine 
providence, for the cyclopic fathers (such as we have found them in Homer and 
Plato), if they had not had such a great private interest identified with that of 
the state, could not have been induced to abandon their savage life in favor of 
civilization, as we have already observed above. 

951 It is quite otherwise in the human times in which free popular states 
or monarchies develop. In the former the citizens have command of the public 
wealth, which is divided among them in as many minute parts as there are 
citizens making up the people who have command of it. In the second the sub- 
jects are commanded to look after their own private interests and leave the care 
of the public interest to the sovereign prince. To this we must add the natural 
causes which produced these forms of state (which are quite opposite to those 
which had produced heroism); namely, as we have shown above, love of ease, 
tenderness toward children, love of women and desire for life. By reason of all 
this, men are today naturally led to attend to the smallest details which may bring 


their private utilities into equality with those of others. This is the aequum 
bonum considered by the third kind of reason to be discussed here, namely, 
natural reason, which is called aequitas naturalis by the jurisconsults. This is the 
only reason of which the multitude are capable, for, when they are themselves in- 
volved, they attend to the smallest considerations of the justice which is called 
for by cases when the facts are reduced to their individual species. And in mon- 
archies there are needed a few men skilled in statecraft to give counsel according 
to civil equity on public emergencies in the cabinets, and a great many jurists of 
private jurisprudence to administer justice to the peoples by professing natural 



952 What has here been set forth concerning the three kinds of reason 
may serve as a foundation on which to establish the history of Roman law. For 
governments must conform to the nature of the governed, as we have laid down 
above in an axiom [246]; inasmuch as the governments are born of the nature 
of the governed, as has been shown above by our Principles. So too the laws must 
be administered in conformity with the governments, and on that account must 
be interpreted according to the form of the governments. (This seems not to have 
been done by any of the jurisconsults or interpreters, who have fallen into the 
same error into which the historians of Roman affairs had previously fallen. The 
latter tell of laws decreed at various times in the Roman commonwealth but fail 
to point out the relations which these laws must have had to the forms of govern- 
ment through which that commonwealth passed. Hence the facts emerge so de- 
nuded of the proper causes which must naturally have produced them, that 
Jean Bodin, equally learned as jurist and as statesman, argues that the things 
done by the ancient Romans in the period of the liberty which the historians 
falsely describe as popular were instead the effects of an aristocratic common- 
wealth, as in the present work we have shown to be the fact.) In view of all 
this, if all the embellishers of the history of Roman law are asked: Why did the 
old jurisprudence practice such rigors in applying the Law of the Twelve Tables? 
Why did the middle jurisprudence, by the edicts of the praetors, begin to exercise 
a benignity of reason while still respecting that Law? Why did the new juris- 
prudence, without even a pretense of regard for that Law, adopt the generous 
profession of natural equity? then, in order to give an explanation of some 
kind, they put forward one which is very offensive to Roman generosity, for 
they say that the rigors, the solemnities, the scruples, the verbal subtleties and 


finally the secrecy of the laws themselves were impostures on the part of the 
nobles in order to keep the laws in their own hands, for the reason that the 
laws make up a great part of civil power. 

953 Yet these practices were so far from being impostures that they were 
customs born of their very natures, which through such customs produced such 
states as naturally dictated such practices and no others. For in the time of the 
extreme savagery of earliest mankind, when religion was the only means suf- 
ficiently powerful to tame it, providence, as we have seen above, ordained that 
men should live under divine governments and that the laws everywhere 
reigning should be sacred, which is as much as to say mysterious and hidden 
from the masses of the peoples. The laws in the state of the families were so 
naturally of this sort that they were preserved in mute languages expressed in 
consecrated solemnities (which survived in the actus legitimi), which those 
simple minds held necessary to assure one man of the effective will of another 
in the exchange of utilities, whereas now, in the natural intelligence of our 
minds, it is sufficient to assure oneself by the spoken word or even by mere 
gestures. Then came the human governments of aristocratic civil states, and, 
naturally continuing to practice the religious customs, they religiously con- 
tinued to keep the laws mysterious and secret (this secrecy being the soul and 
life of aristocratic commonwealths), and religion insured the strict observance 
of the laws which is the rigor of civil equity by which aristocracies are principally 
preserved. Afterwards, when the time came for popular commonwealths, which 
are naturally open, generous and magnanimous (being commanded by the 
multitude, whom we have shown to be naturally intent on natural equity), the 
so-called vulgar languages and letters (of which, as we said above, the multitude 
are masters) developed at the same pace, and in these they ordered that the 
laws be written down, and thus what had been secret came naturally to be 
published. This is [the history of] the ius latens of which Pomponius relates 
that the Roman plebs would have no more of it and hence insisted that the laws 
be inscribed on tablets, since vulgar letters had come from the Greeks to Rome, 
as noted above. This order of civil human things was finally found ready for the 
monarchic states, in which the monarchs wish the laws administered according 
to natural equity and consequently in harmony with the understanding of the 
multitude, and thus make the powerful and the weak equal before the law, 
which monarchy alone can do. And civil equity or reason of state was understood 
by a few men wise in public reason, and, by virtue of its eternal property, is pre- 
served secret within cabinets. 




954 There were three kinds of judgments. 

955 The first were divine judgments. In the so-called state of nature 
(which was that of the families), as there were no civil authorities ruling by 
law, the family fathers complained to the gods of the wrongs done them (which 
was the first and proper meaning of the phrase implorare deorum fidem) and 
called the gods to bear witness to the justice of their causes (the first and proper 
meaning of deos obtestari). Such accusations and defenses were the world's 
first orations, in the primary and proper sense of that word, and oratio continued 
to be used in Latin for accusation or defense. There are fine examples of this usage 
in Plautus and Terence, and the Law of the Twelve Tables preserved two golden 
passages in which fur to or are and pacto or are (not adorare, which is Lipsius's 
reading) are used respectively for agere and cxcipere, "to bring suit" and "to 
enter an exception." From these orations the term oratorcs survived in Latin for 
those who plead cases in court. The original appeals to the gods were made by 
simple and rude people in the belief that they were heard by the gods whom they 
imagined to dwell on the tops of the mountains, as Homer places them on 
Olympus; and Tacitus tells of a war waged between the Hermunduri and the 
Chatti under the superstition that, except from the mountain tops, mortal 
prayers arc nowhere more closely listened to by the gods preces mortalium 
nusquam propius audiri [than at the river between these two peoples], 

956 The rights secured by these divine judgments were themselves gods, 
for in those times the gentiles imagined that all things were gods. For example, 
Lar was the ownership of the household; dii Hospitales, the right of shelter; dii 
Penates, the paternal power; deus Genius, the right of marriage; deus Terminus, 
the ownership of the farm; dii Manes, the right of burial. Of the last, a golden 
vestige survived in the Law of the Twelve Tables: ius deorum manium* 


957 After such orations (or obsecrations or implorations) and after 
such obtestations, they proceeded to the act of execrating the criminals. Hence 
among the Greeks, as was certainly the case at Argos, there were temples of 
execration, and the execrated men were called anathemata, or, as we say, excom- 
municates. And against them they made vows (this was the first nuncupare 
vota, which means to make solemn vows with consecrated formulae) and they 
consecrated them to the Furies (who were truly dirts devoti) and then killed 
them. (The custom of the Scythians, as we noted above, was to fix a knife in the 
ground, adore it as a god and then kill the man with it.) This kind of execution 
the Latins called mactare, which remained a sacred term used in sacrifices; this 
is the source of the Spanish matar and the Italian ammazzare, to kill. We saw 
above that among the Greeks ara remained in the senses of "harmful body," 
"vow," and "fury," and among the Latins it meant both "altar" and "victim." 
Some kind of excommunication survived among all nations. Caesar left us a 
detailed account of the Gallic ceremony, and the interdict of fire and water was 
preserved among the Romans, as set forth above. Many of these consecrations 
passed into the Law of the Twelve Tables; for example, he who violated a trib- 
une of the plebs was "consecrated to Jove"; an impious son was "consecrated 
to the gods of the fathers"; he who set fire to another's grain was "consecrated to 
Ceres" and burned alive. Such must have been those whom Plautus called 
Saturn's victims, Saturni hostiae. It may be seen that the cruelty of these divine 
punishments was^ike that mentioned in the Axioms [190] as characteristic of 
the crudest witches. 

958 From the practice of these judgments in private affairs, the peoples 
went forth to wage wars which were called pure and pious, pur a et pia bella, and 
they waged them pro arts et jocis, "for altar and hearth"; that is, for civil con- 
cerns both public and private, for they regarded ail human things as divine. 
Hence the heroic wars were all wars of religion, and the heralds, in delivering a 
declaration of war, called forth the gods from the enemy city, and consecrated 
the enemy to the gods. Wherefore defeated kings were presented by the tri- 
umphant Romans to Jove Feretrius on the Capitoline and thereafter slain, after 
the pattern of the impious violent who had been the first hosts, the first victims, 
which Vesta had consecrated on the first altars of the world. And the surrendered 
peoples were considered men without gods, after the pattern of the first famuli; 
whence slaves, like inanimate things, were called mancipia in the Roman 
language, and in Roman jurisprudence they were held in loco rcrum. 




959 One sort of divine judgments, in the barbarous period of the nations, 
were duels, which must have begun under the earliest government of the gods 
and continued for a long time under the heroic commonwealths. Concerning the 
latter we cited in the Axioms [269] the golden passage in Aristotle's Politics 
where he says that these commonwealths had no judiciary laws for punishing 
private wrongs and making restitution for private injuries. Until now this has 
not been believed, because of the false opinion hitherto held by the conceit of 
scholars concerning the philosophic heroism of the first peoples which was sup- 
posed to follow from the matchless wisdom of the ancients. 

960 Certainly among the Romans the interdict Unde vi and the actions 
DC vi bonorum raptorum and Quod metus caussa were introduced late and only 
by the praetor, as we have already noted. And in the return of barbarism private 
reprisals lasted down to the time of Bartolus. Such must have been the condic- 
tions or personal actions of the ancient Romans, for condicere, according to 
Festus, means to denounce or serve notice. (Thus a family father had to make 
formal demand for restitution on one who had unjustly taken from him some- 
thing that belonged to him, in order to proceed to reprisals.) Such a denunciation 
remained a formality of personal actions, as Ulrich Zasius acutely discerned. 

961 But duels contained real judgments, which, because they took place 
re praesenti, had no need of the formal denunciation. From these developed the 
vindiciae, in which a clod taken from the wrongful possessor with a feigned show 
of force, which Aulus Gellius calls jestucaria, of straw (but the name vindiciae 
must have come from the real force originally used), was taken to the judge, 
before whom the claimant spoke over the gleba or clod the words: Aio hunc 
jundum meum esse ex lure quiritium, "I declare this farm to be mine by the 
law of the Quirites." Hence those who write that duels were introduced for lack 
of proofs are wrong; they should say rather for lack of judiciary laws. For cer- 
tainly Frotho, king of Denmark, ordered that all disputes should be settled by 
duels, thereby forbidding their settlement by legitimate judgments. And, to 
avoid litigation, the laws of the Lombards, Salians, Englishmen, Burgundians, 
Normans, Danes and Germans are all alike full of duels. On this account Cujas 
in his De jeudis says: Et hoc genere purgationis diu usi sunt christiani tarn in 
civilibus quam in criminalibus caussis, re omni duello commissa: "Christians 
made use of this sort of purgation for a long time in both civil and criminal 
cases, everything being settled by duel." From this it came about that those who 


are called Ritter or knights in Germany profess the science of dueling and oblige 
the prospective adversaries to tell the truth; for duels, if witnesses were admitted 
and consequently judges had to intervene, would come under either civil or 
criminal judgments. 

962 It has not been believed that the first barbarism practiced dueling, 
because no record of it has come down to us. But it passes our understanding how 
the Homeric Cyclopes, in whom Plato recognizes the earliest family fathers in 
the state of nature, can have endured being wronged, to say nothing of showing 
humanity in the matter. Certainly Aristotle, as cited in the Axioms [269], tells 
us that in the earliest commonwealths, not to speak of the still earlier state of the 
families, there were no laws to right wrongs and punish offenses suffered by 
private citizens (as we have just proved was the case in the ancient Roman 
commonwealth); and therefore Aristotle also tells us, as cited in the same place, 
that this was the custom of barbarous peoples, for, as we noted in that connection, 
peoples are barbarous in their beginnings because they are not yet chastened by 

963 However, there are two great vestiges of such duels, one from Greek 
and one from Roman history, showing that the peoples must have begun their 
wars (called duella by the ancient Latins) with combats between the offended 
individuals, even if they were kings, waged in the presence of their respective 
peoples whom they wished publicly to defend or avenge their offenses. In this 
fashion certainly the Trojan war began with the combat of Menelaus and Paris 
(the former the wronged husband and the latter the seducer of his wife Helen); 
and when the duel was indecisive the Greeks and Trojans proceeded to wage war 
with each other. And we have already noted the same custom among the Latin 
nations in the war between the Romans and the Albans, which was effectively 
settled by the combat between the three Horatii and the three Curiatii, one of 
whom must have abducted Horatia. In such armed judgments right was meas- 
ured by the fortune of victory. This was a counsel of divine providence, to the 
end that, among barbarous peoples with little capacity for reason and no under- 
standing of justice, wars might not breed further wars, and that they might 
thus have some notion of the justice or injustice of men from the favor or dis- 
favor of the gods: even as the gentiles scorned the saintly Job when he had 
fallen from his royal estate because God was against him. And on the same 
principle in the returned barbarian times the barbarous custom was to cut off 
the hand of the loser, however just his cause. 

964 From this sort of custom observed by the peoples in private affairs, 
there emerged what the moral theologians call the external justice of wars, 
whereby the nations might rest in the certainty of their dominions. In this fashion 
the auspices which had founded the monarchical paternal authority of the 
fathers in the state of the families, and had prepared and preserved for them 
their aristocratic reigns in the heroic cities, and which, when shared with the 


plcbs, produced the free popular commonwealths (as Roman history openly 
relates), finally legitimized by the fortune of arms the conquests of the lucky 
victors. All this can have no other source than the innate concept of providence 
which all nations possess and to which they must bow when they see the just 
afflicted and the wicked prospering, as we have said before in the Idea of the 



965 The second kind of judgments, because of their recent origin from 
divine judgments, were all ordinary, observed with an extreme verbal scrupulous- 
ness which must have carried over from the previous divine judgments the name 
religio verborum, even as divine things are universally conceived in sacred 
formulae which cannot be altered by as much as one little letter; whence it was 
said of the ancient formulae for actions:; qui cadlt virgula, caussa cadit, "he who 
drops a comma loses his case." This is the natural law of heroic nations, ob- 
served naturally by ancient Roman jurisprudence; and it was the praetor's jari, 
which was an unalterable utterance, from which the days on which he dispensed 
justice were called dies fasti. This justice, because only the heroes shared in 
it under the heroic aristocracies, must have been the fas deorum of the 
times in which, as we have explained above, the heroes had taken to themselves 
the name of gods; whence later the name Fatum was given to the ineluctable 
order of causes producing the things of nature, as being the utterance of God. 
Hence perhaps the Italian verb ordinare, as applied especially to laws, in the sense 
of giving commands which must necessarily be carried out. 

966 In virtue of this order (which in connection with judgments signi- 
fies the solemn formula for an action), that had dictated the cruel and shameful 
punishment against the illustrious defendant Horatius, the duumvirs them- 
selves could not have absolved him even had he been found innocent, and the 
people, to whom he appealed, absolved him, as Livy tells us, magis admiratione 
virtutis quam lure caussae, "rather because of admiration of his valor than be- 
cause of the justice of his cause." This order of judgments was necessary in the 
times of Achilles, who measured all right by force, in virtue of that property 
of the powerful described by Plautus with his usual elegance: factum non 
pactum, non factum pactum "an agreement is no agreement, and no agreement 
is an agreement" where promises are not fulfilled according to their proud 
desires or where they themselves are not willing to keep their promises. So, in 


order that they should not break out into disputes, quarrels and killings, it was 
a counsel of providence that they should naturally adopt as their notion of 
justice that precisely such and so much was their right as had been set forth in 
solemn verbal formulae; whence the reputation of Roman jurisprudence and of 
our own ancient [i.e. medieval] doctors lay in safeguarding their clients. This 
natural law of heroic nations provided Plautus with plots for several comedies, in 
which panders, through deceptions devised against them by young men enam- 
ored of their slave girls, are unjustly defrauded of the girls by being innocently 
found guilty under some legal formula, and not only are they unable to bring an 
action for fraud, but one of them reimburses the deceitful youth for the price of 
the slave, another begs another youth to be content with half the penalty he has 
incurred for theft not proved by direct evidence, another flies the city for fear of 
being convicted for having corrupted another's slave. Such was the reign of 
natural equity in the judgments of Plautus's times! 

967 Not only was this strict law naturally observed among men, but, 
judging the gods from their own natures, men thought that they too observed it 
in their oaths. So Homer relates that Juno swears to Jove, who is not only wit- 
ness but also judge in the matter of oaths, that she had not urged Neptune to 
rouse up a tempest against the Trojans, since the god Somnus had acted as her 
intermediary, and Jove remains satisfied with her oath. So Mercury, disguised 
as Sosia, swears to the real Sosia, "If I deceive you, let Mercury be against Sosia"; 
and we can hardly believe that it was Plautus's intention in the Amphitryon to 
bring in the gods to teach perjury to the people in the theater. It is even less 
credible in the case of Scipio Africanus and Laelius (who was called the Roman 
Socrates), two most wise princes of the Roman republic with whose collabora- 
tion Terence is said to have composed his comedies; yet in the Andna Davus 
is represented as having the baby placed before Simo's door by the hands of 
Mysis so that if perchance his master should ask him about it, he may with a 
clear conscience deny having put it there. 

968 But a very grave proof is the fact that in Athens, a city of discerning 
and intelligent men, on hearing the verse of Euripides which Cicero rendered 
in Latin: luravi lingua, mentern iniuratam habui "I swore with my tongue, 
but my mind I kept unsworn" the spectators in the theater murmured in dis- 
gust, for naturally they held the opinion that uti lingua nuncupassit, ita ius csto 
"as the tongue has declared, so let it be binding" as the Law of the Twelve 
Tables commanded, And what release could the unhappy Agamemnon find 
from the rash vow in fulfilment of which he consecrated and slew his innocent 
and pious daughter Iphigema? Hence we can understand how ingratitude to 
providence led Lucretius impiously to exclaim upon this deed of Agamemnon: 
Tantum religio potuit suaderc maloruml "So great were the evils religion 
could prompt!" as we set forth above in the Axioms [191]. 

969 In final confirmation of our argument here, we adduce two certain 


facts from Roman history and jurisprudence: one, that it was in very late [re- 
publican] times that Gallus Aquilius introduced the action de dolo; and the 
other, that Augustus gave judges discretion to absolve those who had been 
tricked or seduced. 

970 Being used to this custom in peace, nations defeated in war, accord- 
ing to the terms of surrender, either suffered miserable oppression or by good 
fortune mocked the wrath of their conquerors. 

971 Miserable oppression was the lot of the Carthaginians, who had 
accepted the Roman peace under the provision that they would have left to 
them life, their city and their substance. For they understood by the city its build- 
ings, for which sense the Latin word is urbs, but the Romans had used the word 
civitas, which means the community of citizens. So when in fulfilment of the 
peace terms the Carthaginians were commanded to abandon their city on the 
coast and retire inland, they refused to obey and took up their arms again in de- 
fense. The Romans then declared them rebels, took Carthage and, by the heroic 
law of war, barbarously set fire to it. The Carthaginians repudiated the terms of 
peace granted them by the Romans, which they had not understood in negotiat- 
ing them; for they had become intelligent before their time, partly through 
African sharpness and partly through maritime trading which quickens the 
wit of nations. But the Romans did not therefore consider that war unjust; for, 
excepting a few who regard the Romans as having begun to wage unjust wars 
with that against Numantia which was brought to an end by Scipio Africanus, 
all agree that they began with the later one against Corinth. 

972 A still better proof of what we are arguing is afforded by the returned 
barbarian times. When the Emperor Conrad III dictated the terms of surrender to 
Weinsberg, whose resistance had been fomented by his rival for the empire, he 
specified that only the women should be allowed to come out of the city with 
whatever they could carry away on their backs; whereupon the pious women 
of Weinsberg came out carrying their children, husbands and fathers. The vic- 
torious emperor stood before the city gate, in the very moment of triumph which 
is naturally tempting to insolence, and yet restrained his anger (which is terrify- 
ing in the great and must be most ominous when caused by impediments to 
acquiring or retaining their sovereignty). While the army under his command 
stood by with swords drawn and lances in rest, prepared to slaughter the men 
of Weinsberg, he looked on and permitted all to pass safely by him whom he 
had intended to put to the sword. So far was the natural law of the developed 
human reason of Grotius, Selden and Pufendorf from being current by nature 
through all times in all nations! 

973 All that we have so far set forth, and all that we shall have to say 
later, springs from the definitions we have laid down above in the Axioms [321, 
324] concerning the truth and the certitude of laws and pacts; and [from the 
fact] that the strict law observed in words, which is properly the fas gentium, is 


as natural in barbarous times as that benign law is in human times which is 
measured by the equal utility of causes, which should properly be called fas 
naturae, the immutable law of rational humanity which is the true and proper 
nature of man. 



974 The third kind of judgments are all extraordinary. In these the 
governing consideration is the truth of the facts, to which, according to the 
dictates of conscience, the laws benignly give aid when needed in everything 
demanded by the equal utility of causes. These are all imbued with natural 
modesty (which is the child of intelligence) and therefore guaranteed by good 
faith (the daughter of humanity), which is appropriate to the openness of 
popular commonwealths and much more to the generosity of monarchies, 
wherein the monarchs, in these judgments, make it their pride to be above the 
laws and subject pnly to God and their conscience. And from these judgments, 
practiced in modern times during peace, have arisen the three systems of the 
law of war which we owe to Grotius, Selden and Pufendorf. And Father 
Nicola Concina, having observed many errors and defects in them, has con- 
structed another system more in conformity with good philosophy and more 
useful to human society. This system of his, to the glory of Italy, he still teaches 
in the illustrious university of Padua, in addition to metaphysics, in which he 
holds the principal chair. 





975 All the aforesaid things have been practiced through three sects of 

976 The first was that of religious times which was observed under the 
divine governments. 

977 The second was that of the punctilious, like Achilles. In the returned 
barbarian times it was that of the duellists. 

978 The third was that of civil or modest times, the times of the natural 
law of nations, which Ulpian, adding the specific epithet human, calls Jus 
naturale gentium humanarum. Hence the Latin writers under the emperors 
call the duty of subjects officium civile, and every offense against natural equity 
in the interpretation of the laws is called incivile. It is the last sect of times in 
Roman jurisprudence, beginning with the time of popular liberty. Hence the 
praetors, to accommodate the laws to the Roman nature, customs and govern- 
ment, which had now suffered change, had first of all to soften the severity and 
temper the rigidity of the Law of the Twelve Tables, which had been decreed 
when it was natural in the heroic times of Rome. And later the emperors had to 
remove all the veils in which the praetors had cloaked it and reveal natural equity 
in all the openness and generosity which was appropriate to the gentleness to 
which the nations had become accustomed. 

979 The jurisconsults accordingly justify their views as to what is just by 
appealing to the sect of their times, as we may observe. For these [three sects of 
times] are the proper sects of Roman jurisprudence, in which the Romans con- 
curred with all other nations of the world; sects taught them by divine provi- 
dence, which the Roman jurisconsults set up as the principle of the natural law 
of nations; and not the sects of the philosophers, which some learned interpreters 
of Roman law have forcibly intruded therein, as we have said above in the 


Axioms [326-329?]. And the emperors, when they wish to give a reason for 
their laws or for other orders issued by them, say that they have been guided by 
the sect of their times, as in the passages collected by Barnabe Brisson in his 
De joi'mulis et solemnibus populi Romani vcrbis. For the customs of the age are 
the school of princes, to use the term [saeculum, age] applied by Tacitus to the 
decayed sect of his own times, where he says corrumpere et corrumpi seculum 
vocatur "they call it the spirit of the age to corrupt and to be corrupted" or, as 
we would now say, the fashion. 




980 Such a constant and perpetual orderly succession of civil human 
things, within the strong chain of so many and such various causes and effects as 
we have observed in the course taken by the nations, should constrain our minds 
to receive the truth of these principles. But, in order to leave no room for doubt, 
we shall add the explanation of other civil phenomena which can be explained 
only by the discovery, made above, of the heroic commonwealths. 



981 The two greatest eternal properties of the aristocratic common- 
wealths, as we have said above, are the guarding of the frontiers and the guard- 
ing of the orders. 

982 The guarding of the frontiers began to be observed, as we have seen 
above, by bloody religions under the divine governments, for it was necessary to 
set up boundaries to the fields in order to put a stop to the infamous sharing of 
things in the bestial state. On these boundaries were to be fixed the frontiers 
first of families, then of clans or houses, later of peoples, and finally of nations. 
Hence the giants, as Polyphemus tells Ulysses, lived separately, each in his own 
cave with his wife and children, and did not meddle in one another's affairs, 
thus following the habits of their recent savage origin; and they savagely slew 
any who entered within their boundaries, as Polyphemus attempted to slay 
Ulysses and his companions. (In this giant, as we have remarked several times, 


Plato discerns the fathers in the state of the families.) From this, as we showed 
above, the custom was derived whereby the cities for a long period of time looked 
upon each other as enemies, So much for the harmonious division of the fields 
described by Hermogcnianus the jurisconsult and received in good faith by all 
interpreters of Roman law. From this first and most ancient principle of human 
things, with which its subject matter began, it would be reasonable to begin 
also the doctrine which teaches DC rcrum divisione et acquircndo carum domi- 
nio "Of the classification of things and of acquiring ownership of them." 
This guarding of the frontiers is naturally practiced in the aristocratic common- 
wealths, which, as political writers point out, are not established by conquest. 
But later, when the infamous communism of things had ceased and the bound- 
aries of the peoples were well fixed, came the popular commonwealths which 
are made for the expansion of empires, and finally the monarchies which are 
even more efficient in that respect. 

983 This and no other must be the reason why the Law of the Twelve 
Tables did not recognize simple possession, and usucapion in heroic times 
served to solemnize natural transfers, the best interpreters defining it as dominii 
adicctio, the addition of civil ownership to the natural ownership previously 
acquired. But afterwards in the time of popular liberty the praetors came to the 
assistance of bare possession with the interdicts, and usucapion began to be 
dominii adeptio^a. way of acquiring civil ownership from the beginning; and 
while at first cases of possession did not come up for judgment because the 
praetor took extrajudicial cognizance of them, in accordance with what we 
have said on the subject above, today the most certain judgments are those 
called possessory. 

984 Thus there came about in the period of popular liberty at Rome a 
fading, and under the monarchy a complete disappearance, of the distinction 
between bonitary, quiritary, optimum and civil ownership. Originally these 
terms carried meanings very different from their present ones. The first meant 
natural ownership, maintained by perpetual physical possession. The second 
meant ownership that could be vindicated; it was current among the plebeians, 
having been extended to them by the nobles in the Law of the Twelve Tables, 
but a plebeian could vindicate it only by calling in as auctor the noble from 
whom he had acquired title, as we have fully shown above. The third meant 
ownership free of any encumbrance public or private; it was enjoyed by the 
patricians among themselves before the establishment of the census which was 
the basis of popular liberty, as we have said above. The fourth and last meant 
the ownership belonging to the cities themselves, which today is called eminent 
domain. The difference between optimum and quiritary ownership had already 
been obscured in the times of liberty, so that the jurisconsults of the latest period 
took no account of it. But under the monarchy what is called bonitary ownership 
(born of bare natural transfer) and the so-called quiritary ownership (born of 
mancipation or civil conveyance) were quite confused by Justinian in the con- 


stitutions De nudo lure qulritium tollendo and De usucapione trans]ormanda, 
and the famous distinction between res mancifi and res nee mancipi was com- 
pletely obliterated. There remained civil ownership in the sense of ownership 
yielding an action of ret vindicatio, and optimum ownership in the sense of 
ownership not subject to any private encumbrance. 



985 The guarding of the orders began in divine times from jealousy (the 
jealousy of Juno, the goddess of solemn matrimony, as noted above) with a view 
to the certainty of the families as against the nefarious communism of women. 
Such vigilance is a natural property of the aristocratic commonwealths, desirous 
of keeping family relationships, successions, and consequently wealth and 
through it power, within the order of the nobles. On this account testamentary 
laws were late in appearing among the nations. (Tacitus says that there was no 
testament among the ancient Germans.) This is the reason why, when King Agis 
tried to introduce such laws at Sparta, he was strangled by command of the 
ephors, the custodians of the liberty of the Lacedaemonian nobles, as we have 
already stated. We may understand from this with how much discernment the 
embellishers of the Law of the Twelve Tables fixed in the eleventh table the 
article Ausplcia incommunicata flebt sunto "Let the auspices be withheld 
from the plebs" for on these originally depended all civil rights both public 
and private, which were thus all kept within the order of the nobles. The private 
rights were solemn matrimony, paternal power, heredes sui, agnates, gentiles, 
legitimate succession, testaments and guardianships, as we have set forth above. 
Thus, after having extended all these rights to the plebs in the first table and 
thereby established the laws proper to a popular commonwealth, and particularly 
the testamentary law, they proceed by a single article in the eleventh table to 
give it a completely aristocratic form. However, in such confusion of things they 
say this too, which, though a guess on their part, is true: that in the last two 
tables some ancient customs of the Romans passed into law. This statement 
verifies the aristocratic nature of the ancient Roman state. 

986 Now, to come back to the subject, when the human race was every- 
where settled by the solemnizing of matrimony, there appeared the popular 
commonwealths, and much later the monarchies. In these, as a result of inter- 
marriage with the plebs of the peoples and as a result of testamentary successions, 
the orders of the nobility were disorganized, and so, little by little, wealth began 
to pass from the noble houses. For it has been fully shown above that the Roman 


plebeians contracted only natural marriages down to the 309th year of Rome, 
when they finally obtained from the patricians the grant of connubium or the 
right of contracting solemn nuptials; nor in their miserable state, like that of 
abject slaves as Roman history represents it to us, could they have made any pre- 
tension to intermarriage with the nobles. This is one of the most important 
considerations which led us to say in the first edition of this work that unless we 
assign these principles to Roman jurisprudence, Roman history is more incredible 
than the fabulous 'history of the Greeks, as it has hitherto been related to us. 
For we could not understand what the latter meant, but we feel instinctively 
that the former is in direct opposition to the order of human desires. For it 
shows us men of the basest condition aspiring first to nobility in the struggle 
over connubium, then to honors in the struggle for the consulate, and finally to 
wealth by laying claim to the high priesthood; whereas, by the eternal common 
civil nature, men first seek wealth, then honors, and lastly nobility. 

987 Thus we are compelled to say that, when the plebeians had won 
from the nobles the certain ownership of the fields by the Law of the Twelve 
Tables (which we showed above to be the second agrarian law of the world), as 
they were still strangers (for such ownership can be granted to strangers), they 
learned by experience that they could not leave their fields intestate to their kin, 
for, as they could not contract solemn matrimony, they had no heredes sui, 
agnates or gentiles; much less could they dispose of them by testament, as they 
were not citizens. And there is no reason to wonder at this, since they were men 
of little or no intelligence, as is evident from the Furian, Voconian and Falcidian 
laws, which were all plebiscites; for it took all three of them in order that by 
the Falcidian law the desired end should finally be achieved, namely that estates 
should not be absorbed by legacies. Because the plebeians perceived, in the case 
of those of their number who died during the three years [following the Law 
of the Twelve Tables], that the fields which had been assigned to them reverted 
to the nobles by reason of the aforesaid disabilities, they laid claim to connubium 
and thereby to citizenship, as we have explained above. But the grammarians, 
confused by all the political writers who imagined Rome to have been founded 
by Romulus with the form of government which cities now have, did not know 
that the plebs of the heroic cities had been for several centuries considered as 
foreigners and had therefore contracted only natural marriages among them- 
selves. Hence they did not observe either the factual impropriety or the poor 
Latinity of taking the historical phrase plebei tentarunt connubia patrum as if 
it read cum patribus (after the manner of the marriage laws, such as: patruus 
non habet cum jratris filia connubium), as we have noted above. For, if they had 
noticed this, they would certainly have understood that the plebeians did not 
claim the right of intermarrying with the nobles, but the right, which belonged 
to the nobles, of contracting solemn nuptials. 

988 Hence, if we consider legitimate successions as determined by the 
Law of the Twelve Tables that the deceased father of a family should be sue- 


ceeded in the first place by heredes sui, in their default by his agnates, and in 
defect of these by his gentiles the Law of the Twelve Tables will seem to have 
been precisely a Salic Law of the Romans. This law was also observed by Ger- 
many in its earliest times (whence we may assume the like for the other first 
nations of the returned barbarism), and it finally survived in France and Savoy. 
Baldus, quite agreeably to our thesis, calls this law of succession ius gentium Gal- 
lorum. By the same token, the Roman law of agnate and gentile successions 
may rightfully be called ius gentium romanarum, with the addition of the 
epithet heroicarum, and, to put it more properly, romanum. This would be pre- 
cisely the ius quirttium romanorum which we showed above to have been the 
natural law common to all the heroic nations. 

989 What we have said here about the Salic Law, so far as it excludes 
women from the royal succession, is not, as may appear, contradicted by the state- 
ment that Tanaquil, a woman, governed the Roman kingdom. For that was a 
heroic phrase to describe a weak-spirited king who allowed himself to be domi- 
nated by the crafty Servius Tullius, who invaded the Roman kingdom with the 
favor of the plebs, on whom he had bestowed the first agrarian law, as shown 
above. A parallel to the Tanaquil story, with the same heroic manner of speak- 
ing, occurred in the returned barbarian times when Pope John was called a 
woman (against which fable Leo Allacci wrote an entire book) because of the 
great weakness he showed in yielding to Photius, patriarch of Constantinople, 
as pointed out by Baronio and after him by de Sponde. 

990 Having resolved this difficulty, we may now state that in the same 
way as the phrase ius quirttium romanorum had first been used in the sense of 
ius naturale gentium heroicarum romanarum, just so, when Ulpian under the 
emperors defines the law current in the free commonwealths and much more 
under the monarchies, he calls it, weighing his words, ius naturale gentium 
humanarum. And in view of all this the title in the Institutes [1.2: De lure na- 
turali, gentium, et civili] ought to read, it would seem, De jure naturali gentium 
civili, not only removing with Hermann Vulteius the comma between naturali 
and gentium (and with Ulpian supplying humanarum in place of the second 
comma), but suppressing as well the particle et before civili. For the Romans 
must have had reference to their own law as they had preserved it from the time 
of its introduction in the age of Saturn, first by their customs and later by their 
legislation, just as Varro in his great work Antiquitates rerum divmarum et 
humanarum treated of Roman things with reference to their purely native 
origins, with no admixture of anything foreign. 

991 Now, returning to the Roman heroic successions, we have many 
strong reasons for doubting that, in ancient Roman times, daughters were ex- 
ceptions to the exclusion of women. For we have no reason to believe that the 
hero fathers had any spark of tenderness, but rather many weighty ones to the 
contrary. The Law of the Twelve Tables called an agnate as remote as the seventh 
degree in order to exclude an emancipated son from succeeding to his father. 


The family fathers had a sovereign right of life and death over their children 
and hence a despotic dominion over the acquisitions of their sons. They con- 
tracted alliances on behalf of their sons in order to bring into their houses women 
worthy of the family. (This is evidenced by the verb spondere, which properly 
means to promise for another, whence betrothals were called sponsalia.) They 
regarded adoptions in the same light as marriages, as a means of reinforcing 
decaying families by choosing scions from noble stocks. They regarded emanci- 
pation as chastisement or punishment. They had no notion of legitimation, 
since concubinage was practiced only with freed slaves and foreigners, with 
whom in heroic times solemn matrimony could not be contracted lest the chil- 
dren degenerate from the nobility of their sires. For the most frivolous reasons, 
testaments were either null or nullified or broken or of no effect, in order to 
clear the way for legitimate successions. To such an extent were they naturally 
dazzled by the brightness of their own private names, whence they were nat- 
urally inflamed for the glory of the common name of Roman! All these are 
customs proper to aristocratic commonwealths such as the heroic common- 
wealths were, and they are all properties in accord with the heroism of the 
first peoples. 

992 A matter worthy of reflection is this glaring error committed by the 
erudite embellishers of the Law of the Twelve Tables who assert that it was 
brought from Athens to Rome: namely that inheritances left intestate by 
Roman family fathers, during all the time before that Law brought in testa- 
mentary and legitimate successions, must have gone under the category of the 
things called res nulltus. Providence, on the contrary, in order that the world 
should not relapse into the infamous communism of things, ordained that the 
certainty of ownership should be preserved by and through the very form of 
the aristocratic commonwealths. Hence legitimate successions must naturally 
have been observed by all the first nations before they had any notion of testa- 
ments, which are proper to the popular commonwealths and much more to the 
monarchies, as indeed Tacitus clearly tells us was the case among the ancient 
Germans (whose practice gives us reason to assume the same of all the first 
barbarous peoples). This was the basis for the conjecture we have just made 
that the Salic Law, which was certainly observed in Germany, was observed 
universally by the nations in the time of the second barbarism. 

993 However, the jurisconsults of the last [period of Roman] juris- 
prudence, by estimating the things of the unknown earliest times by those of 
their own quite late times, which is the source of innumerable errors noted in 
this work, believed that the Law of the Twelve Tables had called the daughters 
of families to the inheritances of their fathers who had died intestate, in virtue 
of the word suus [in the phrase sui heredes], following the rule that the mascu- 
line gender includes women also. But heroic jurisprudence, of which we have 
had so much to say in this work, took the words of the laws in their strictest 
meaning, so that the word suus meant only the son of a family. Invincible proof 


of this is afforded by the formula for the institution of posthumous children, 
introduced many centuries later by Callus Aquihus, which is phrased Si quis 
natus natavc erit, lest from the word natus alone it should not be understood 
that a posthumous daughter is included. Because of his ignorance of these 
matters, Justinian in the Institutes affirms that the Law of the Twelve Tables by 
the use of the word adgnatus had called male and female agnates alike, but that 
later the middle jurisprudence had made the law more rigid by restricting it 
to sisters of the same blood. Thus by chance and yet happily this jurisprudence 
came to be called middle for the reason that, beginning with these cases, it 
mitigated the rigors of the Law of the Twelve Tables, whereas the ancient juris- 
prudence which preceded it had guarded its words with the greatest scrupulous- 
ness. Both have been fully described above. 

994 But when sovereignty had passed from the nobles to the people, 
since for the plebs all its strength, wealth and power depends on the multitude 
of its children, the tenderness of blood ties began to make itself felt. Before 
that the plebeians of the heroic cities cannot have had this feeling, for they 
generated children to make them slaves of the nobles, by whom indeed they 
were bidden to propagate at such a time as would result in springtime births 
so that the young would be born not only healthy but robust. (Hence they were 
called vernae, as the Latin etymologists tell us, and from this name, as we said 
above, the vulgar tongues were called vernaculae.) The mothers must have hated 
rather than loved their children, for they had only the pain of bearing and 
the trouble of nursing them, without having from them any joy or profit. But 
the multitude of the plebeians, while it had been dangerous to the aristocratic 
commonwealths, which are and profess to be the property of the few, added to 
the greatness of the popular commonwealths and much more to that of the 
monarchies (which is why the imperial laws are so favorably disposed to women 
because of the dangers and pains of childbirth). Hence from the times of popular 
liberty the praetors began to consider the rights of blood and to satisfy them 
by means of the bonorum possessions. They began with their remedies to repair 
the faults and shortcomings of testaments in order to facilitate the diffusion of 
wealth, which alone is admired by the vulgar. 

995 Finally came the emperors, who, taking umbrage at the splendor of 
the nobles, devoted themselves to promoting the rights of human nature, com- 
mon to plebeian and noble alike. This began with Augustus, who bent his efforts 
to the protection of trusteeships (by which formerly property had passed to per- 
sons incapable of inheritance thanks only to the conscientiousness of the injured 
heirs) and gave them such great assistance that within his lifetime he endowed 
them with legal compulsion, obliging the heirs to give effect to them. A great 
many senatusconsulta followed which placed cognates on a level with agnates. 
Finally Justinian